Dembele: I should have scored more against Rangers
HAVING become the first Celtic player in no fewer than 50 years to score a hat-trick in a league game against Rangers, it is fair to say Moussa Dembele has made quite an impact since being signed in the summer.
Throw in important goals in Champions League qualifiers against Astana and Hapoel Be’er Sheva and the French forward has already justified the paltry £500,000 fee it took to secure his services from Fulham.
But has the prodigiously-gifted 20-year-old been happy with his contribution since arriving at Parkhead? Not at all. Like all good strikers, he is hungry to net even more.
“It’s never enough,” said Dembele. “I scored three [against Rangers], but I think I could have had more. Scoring that hat-trick was something huge because it hadn’t been done for years, but you always think you could have improved on what you did.
“I analysed the game and saw things which I could improve. I’m still young and I’m still learning the game and I understand that you cannot have the perfect match.
“It doesn’t exist. You must always try to be perfect, but you can never do it. So after the Rangers game I focused on working every day to do better.”
The return to fitness of Leigh Griffiths, who has been sidelined since last month with a calf injury, may go some way towards explaining Dembele’s insatiable desire to get his name on the scoresheet more frequently.
Griffiths, who missed the 5-1 Ladbrokes Premiership victory over Rangers and the 7-0 Champions League reverse to Barcelona through injury, trained this week and is available for selection for the visit of Kilmarnock to Celtic Park in the league this afternoon.
His team mate admitted that the presence of the prolific marksman, who scored 40 times last term and has bagged seven goals so far this season, has helped to bring out the best in him.
“It’s good to have a striker like him because I know I need to be at my best when he’s around,” he said. “I always welcome a challenge. Leigh is a good player and a good addition to the team. He was injured, but now he’s back and that’s great for everyone.”
It certainly presents Brendan Rodgers with a major, if pleasant, dilemma. It will be interesting to see who he prefers up front in Wednesday’s Champions League match against Manchester City.
“The manager will make up his mind as to who plays and I will be happy with his decision,” said Dembele. “But there is no rivalry between us – we get on quite well. He’s a good guy and so am I so there’s no fight between us.
“We both want to play and we both give 100 per cent. Maybe we could both play together but, whatever happens, I’m glad he’s here.”
Dembele has experienced lows as well as highs since moving to Glasgow; he failed to convert a penalty against Barcelona in the Nou Camp when Celtic were only trailing by a single goal.
The former France Under-20 internationalist, though, believes he can only learn from that experience and from being on the same field as the fabled “trident” of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.
“As a young player, to go to the Nou Camp to play against the best team in the world is something great,” he said. “In a game like that, even though the result was not what we wanted, it was valuable to see what it takes to be a top, top player and that’s what I learned from the Barcelona game. That’s why I came here, for these special moments.
“It was difficult going from winning against Rangers and feeling so great to then going to Barcelona and a result like that. But like I said, you have to take the positives and learn from the negatives so you can try to improve it next time.
“Celtic can make an impact in the Champions League. If we give our best and play to the level we are capable of then I think we can cause this Manchester City team some problems.”
And if Celtic win a penalty against Pep Guardiola’s and Dembele is playing he will have no hesitation stepping forward.
“I’m still on penalty duty; still confident,” he said. “I didn’t dwell on what happened in Barcelona. Everyone misses a penalty – even Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, the best players, miss at some time.”
TWO OF A KIND: Celtic strikers Leigh Griffiths and Moussa Dembele.