Ousmane Dembele admits to big changes to preparation two years ago after injuries

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Ousmane Dembele has had one of the tougher rides at Barcelona, but the French winger has bit by bit turned his situation around and is slowly becoming a favourite at Camp Nou.

Still their second-most expensive signing in their history, most of his Barcelona career was defined by his absence through injuries. When he finally began to put together some consistent fitness, contract negotiations threatened to take him away from Barcelona. Dembele ran out of contract in the summer before signing a new deal. Despite being whistled in February, by the end of last season he was being given ovations.

Speaking to Mundo Deportivo this week, Dembele admitted that his first three seasons at Camp Nou were a tricky time.

“The first three years were very difficult, I had a lot of injuries. The physios and the fitness coaches warned me that if I didn’t work off the pitch too then I was not going to enjoy myself on it, you’re not going to play much, you’re going to injure yourself… Two years ago I made a big change and everything has gone better.”

In a double-interview, he told Sport that it began to impact on his mindset too.

“I ended up with a bit of fear, yes. Up to thinking that at any moment I could injure myself. Everything changed with the arrival of [Ronald] Koeman, I had a pelvis injury and it caused me a lot of fear. Later everything changed, everything kept getting better.”

Dembele, who has been treated harshly by the media in Catalonia at times, did seem to take some responsibility for his fitness issues initially. He admitted that he was too young when he made the move, but that he had committed to turning the situation around in 2020.

“That’s it. The ‘click’ was after that injury, when Koeman arrived. I worked a lot to avoid injuries. I started to play, I think it was 46 games that season. Speaking with the fitness coaches, with mine. That’s when they told me that if I didn’t work then I would keep getting injured and I wasn’t going to enjoy football.”

“Now I have a fitness coach, who speaks with the ones at Barca, with Ivan Torres. I work in the morning and have exercises after training in order to strengthen the pelvis and the rest… There are very good physios at Barca. I work a lot with Carlos [Nogueira] and my fitness coach.”

It is also worth mentioning that the situation at Barcelona is far easier to thrive in now than it perhaps was during some of his early seasons. To begin with, his favoured spot on the right was occupied by Lionel Messi and he arrived to a team that was in decadence.