Alfredo Morelos and Moussa Dembélé are both 21 year old centre forwards and play for Glaswegian clubs in the SPFL Premiership. This season they have performed similarly in some respects; both averaging approximately a goal every two games and setting up a shooting chance for a teammate around 1.30 times every 90 minutes. However, despite these similarities there is a remarkable contrast between the two individuals.
Comparing El Bufalo and The Dembelition
Morelos started his professional career with Deportivo Independiente Medellín in his homeland of Colombia. Simon Edwards, an expert on Colombian football, advises that Morelos did not have many first team opportunities there but he did start regularly for the Colombian under 20 national team. However, he didn’t really impress; although he worked hard and did some good things with his back to goal he lacked a cutting edge and didn’t look particularly dangerous.
Edwards stated; “He left Colombia very much as a second tier talent, when he was on the fringes of the DIM first team which was a bold move. (The) fresh start really paid off and that selfish, single minded, direct to goal streak has really come out in Europe which is what held him back here. It hasn’t been a conventional route to success and he deserves respect for taking the risk of stepping out of his comfort zone, challenging himself and getting first team football.”
Rangers’ Morelos is almost 5000 miles from home and has played football almost non-stop over the last few years. Colombia to Finland to Scotland – each with different football season start and end dates and therefore hardly a moment for the player to catch his breath or probably measure progress in any other way than the most obvious; money and goals. Celtic’s Dembélé was born in northwest Paris, has progressed steadily through each level of the France international youth setup and and has spent almost the last six years in the UK developing as a player. This season he has played about half as many league minutes as Morelos due to injury and his club’s depth at centre forward.
The Colombian has had four different managers since joining Rangers, experienced a reportedly toxic dressing room and has had to contend with rumours of him being sold to a Chinese club in January – which would have led to yet another year of non-stop football with no pre-season break. By way of contrast Dembélé is at a stable club with clear team unity and any transfer rumours were at least of moves to La Liga and the English Premier League which he might consider positive career progress.
The Frenchman had thigh and hamstring injuries in the summer of 2017 which meant he missed games and didn’t score his first goal of the season until the 16th of September. Morelos had scored six times in the league, in six matches, by that date. Morelos ended the SPFL league season with 14 goals and 6 assists but only one of those contributions came after the division split which pit Rangers against the other members of the top 6 in the league and he was dropped for the late April clash against Celtic. Dembélé was injured for some of the post split fixtures but was able to end his season on a high, helping to clinch the double-treble, with a strong performance in Celtic’s Scottish Cup Final win over Motherwell. Dembélé ended the season with 9 goals and 7 assists in just under 1500 minutes gametime. Morelos got 49% of his shots on target and scored once every 181 minutes whereas Dembélé landed 58% of his efforts on goal and scored once every 161 minutes. The performance radars below, where the outer edges are the very highest level of output in the division minus 10%, do give a visual comparison of their contribution as a whole for the season.
The starkest contrast between the two young forwards is the fan response to them. Despite a brief wobble in their affections when his head was turned by transfer rumours Dembélé is loved by Celtic fans. He is seen as a key figure in their team and, even in games when he doesn’t score, is respected for the work he does on the field. Morelos is a laughing stock for the high number of easy chances he is perceived to have missed. Celtic fans cheered him, ironically, on to the pitch when he was introduced as a substitute against their club but it is the vitriol directed at him by many Rangers fans which really differentiates life for the two players. The contrast seems to be reflected in their own social media accounts; Morelos has a private account on which he tends to post selfies, standing alone in his sparse apartment, or snaps of tourist trips to places like Edinburgh Castle with his partner whereas Dembélé tends to share happy videos featuring him and his compatriot teammates Olivier Ntcham and Odsonne Édouard.
Given all the easy chances Morelos apparently misses is he more of a bull in a china shop than El Bufalo? If he isn’t even trusted to start against Celtic it seems likely Rangers may explore selling him this summer. Morelos recently retweeted rumours of interest in him from Turkish club Beskitas and in some ways it would be understandable if he was looking for a way out of Ibrox. Celtic are likely to face rumours of the interest in Dembélé all summer and may be considering whether it is time to cash in.
Replacing El Bufalo and The Dembelition
Ideally, both clubs should keep these players and build upon this season. Rangers are facing a major rebuild in central defence and need depth upfront with Jason Cummings’ loan at an end and Kenny Miller now 38 years old. Celtic should be prioritising a new right back and a goalkeeper and making progression in Europe a major focus. Therefore, the players highlighted in this article can be viewed as both potential replacements or added depth and competition. They are all fairly young and are reasonably realistic targets – though some only as loan deals. Scout these players out and tell us your thoughts on them and who else both clubs should look at by tweeting @PureFitbaw and @OwenJamesBrown using #OldFirmReplacements – we’ll be following this up with more suggestions in part two soon.
Recently linked with Celtic, Jann-Fiete Arp is an 18 year old 6’2″ German striker who plays for Hamburger SV. He only played for a total of 845 Bundesliga minutes this 2017/18 season but has great pedigree – scoring 18 goals in 19 appearances for Germany’s under-17 international team including 5 at the 2017 under-17 World Cup. Hamburg were relegated this season and it is difficult to tell at this point if that may make them more desperate to hold on to the young star to help their attempts to bounce straight back or if they will be forced into a sale. If Celtic do look as if they are closing in on a deal perhaps new Hamburg signing David Bates will be tempted to sabotage the move on behalf of his previous employers Rangers.
Cyriel Dessers is a 23 year old, 6’1″ Belgian who plays for FC Utrecht in the Dutch Eredivisie. This season, in the league, he has scored 9 goals and made 3 assists in just 1437 (just under 16 x 90 minutes) minutes playing time which gives him 0.60 goals every 90 minutes – a very respectable amount. Dessers takes 2.3 shots every 90 minutes which is a little on the low side but, encouragingly, 91% of those shots come from inside the penalty box so they are from relatively dangerous locations. He only moved to FC Utrecht last summer, after notching 22 league goals in the Dutch second tier for NAC Breda, but as his club missed out on Europa League qualification for next season in a playoff with Vitesse he could be tempted to move on. Dessers is quite a broad shouldered, long legged all rounder with decent technique as well as fine movement in the box and could even work well playing slightly ahead of Morelos in a front two for Rangers.
Youssef En-Nesyri turns 21 years old in a few days and is a 6’3″ Moroccan who has been with Malaga since 2015. He already has 15 international caps and is on the standby list for Morocco’s 2018 Wold Cup squad. This season he played 1590 minutes (about 18 x 90 minutes) for Malaga and scored 4 goals. This is only 0.20 goals every 90 minutes but Malaga did finish last in La Liga and En-Nesyri was managing to get a creditable 2.1 shots in the penalty box every 90 minutes. A fair assumption might be that he was missing quite a lot of good opportunities but a lot of his missed chances were headers from quite far out – perhaps he would prosper from a move to a team with better delivery into the box and that is capable of setting up more shots with his feet for him. As Malaga have been relegated En-Nesyri could be a fairly low cost gamble for Rangers with a potentially good resale value after a couple of good seasons.
Dimitri Oberlin is a 20 year old, Cameroon born, Swiss international. He has played for each of the international levels from under-15 up and is on the stand by list for World Cup 2018. Oberlin was highly sought after and eventually opted to join RB Salzburg in 2015 after being linked with several elite clubs. He has been loaned out three times since including most recently to FC Basel for whom he scored twice against Benfica in the 2017/18 Champions League.
Oberlin is highly dangerous, possessing incredible pace, and both Glasgow clubs should target him as a loan move or if possible on a permanent basis; there are rumours that he has a release fee of around just €5million.
Amine Gouiri is an 18 year old French centre forward who has been with Olympique Lyon since 2013 and signed his first professional contract in the summer of 2017. He has played for France internationally at under-16, 17, 18 and 19 level and was the top scorer at the 2017 under-17 European Championships – equalling the goal scoring record held by Abel Ruiz of Spain and none other than Celtic’s French loanee Odsonne Édouard. In fact, Gouri scored a last minute goal against Scotland which saved France from group stage elimination and he has also scored, for Lyon in a friendly last summer, against Celtic.
The youngster made just 7 short substitute appearances in Ligue 1 throughout 2017/18 and given Lyon’s purchase of Martin Terrier it seems likely he may be available on loan.
Another young French forward is 22 year old 1 FC Koln player Sehrou Guirassy. He has played less than 900 minutes in the Bundesliga and has had some injury issues since signing in 2016 but did post an impressive 0.52 non penalty xG per 90 in the 2017/18 season. His club finished bottom of the league and Guirassy, who scored 10 goals in 20 appearances for France at the under-19 and under-20 levels combines, may be open to moving on. He is quick, good with his feet in the box and at 6’2″ is a threat in the air.
Emmanuel Boateng is a 22 year old Ghanian who came to global prominence in May 2018 when he scored a hat-trick for Levante against Barcelona – helping to halt the Catalan club’s unbeaten season in La Liga. He played 1250 league minutes in the 2017/18 season after joining from Portuguese club Moreirense and had an impressive 0.50 non penalty xG per 90. Boateng played in the 2015 under-20 World Cup for Ghana and, although they did not qualify for this year’s senior World Cup, looks set to make his full international debut this week in friendly competition. The buzz around him may be slightly inflated given who he scored half of his 6 La Liga goals this season against but he is definitely worth a closer look for both sides of the Old Firm.
As stated above; scout these players out and tell us your thoughts on them and who else both clubs should look at by tweeting @PureFitbaw and @OwenJamesBrown using #OldFirmReplacements – we’ll be following this up with more suggestions in part two soon.