Xavi: Ousmane Dembele Must Be 'Mentally Strong' to Pass Barcelona 'Final Exam'

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 2018

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 18: Ousmane Dembele of FC Barcelona applauds to the crowd as he is substituted during the La Liga match between Barcelona and Athletic Club at Camp Nou on March 18, 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez has spoken of the mentality needed to succeed at the club, and the midfielder is hoping to see it from Ousmane Dembele at the Camp Nou. 

The 20-year-old France international arrived on the back of a magnificent season with Borussia Dortmund, where he plundered 10 goals and 21 assists, but he hasn't settled seamlessly into the Barca squad.

Barcelona legend Xavi told So Foot (h/t MailOnline's Jordan Seward) of what Dembele needs to do make his move a success: "He will have to learn to think faster, in a few thousandths of a second. This is where we will see if he has the mentality. He must say to himself: 'l am a Barca player.' You have to be mentally strong, to have conviction."

The 38-year-old, who made more than 750 appearances in 17 years at the club, does not expect Dembele to possess the mentality right away, though. He added:

"He will need some time. Barca is like a final exam for a footballer. It is like Dembele is passing a Master's degree right now because not everyone can play for this club.

"Why? Because you have to know things three times more than elsewhere. Barca play on barely 30 metres of the pitch.

"Dembele has a lot of talent, he is very fast, but here, he is not going to have the space he had at Dortmund or Rennes. He had more space, so more time there."

The Frenchman suffered a hamstring injury in September that kept him out for the remainder of 2017, and he has had to work his way back to full fitness, leaving him with a tally of just one goal and five assists in all competitions.

Dembele seems to be getting back to his best, though. Grup 14's Rafael Hernandez praised the youngster after he grabbed an assist in Barca's 2-0 win over Malaga earlier in March:

Rafael Hernández @RafaelH117

Málaga are in shambles right now, but doesn’t diminish the young Frenchman’s performance, he needs this to help the club in the upcoming key UCL matches.

In the following game, he scored his first goal for the club as they beat Chelsea 3-0, lashing home after Lionel Messi led a counter-attack. Football journalists Rik Sharma and Dermot Corrigan were impressed:

Rik Sharma @riksharma_

Dembele has arrived.

Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan

Super run by Messi, for sure, but excellent finish by Dembele too. Didnt look short of confidence, for sure.

Through no fault of his own, Dembele has endured a difficult start to his Barcelona career, but it bodes well that he seems to be finishing the season strongly.

Xavi believes talent is not enough to succeed at the Camp Nou, as it means little without the ability to cope with the pressures of playing for Barcelona:

"There are average players who spent 15 years at Barca, because they had character. And there are some excellent players who did not do anything because they couldn't handle pressure.

"In training, when you saw them, you would say to yourself: 'They will break everything. They're going to be legends.' But no. As soon as they entered the pitch, their legs started shaking, they did not want the ball anymore. And you would wonder: 'Holy f--k, what's happening to them?'"

Dembele still has a long way to go to prove he can be a success at the club, and he seems to recognise as much, per Indy Football:

Indy Football @IndyFootball

Ousmane Dembele: "I hope to become a great player. Today, I consider myself a good player. I'm young, I still have a lot to learn. We will say that I am a Ferrari under construction." https://t.co/x2z0uvqK5k

It's a promising sign the Frenchman is not getting carried away with his recent performances, and that attitude should serve him well as he continues to develop his game and translate his abundance of talent into consistently strong showings on the pitch.

It's important he finishes the season well, ahead of what will hopefully be an injury-free campaign next year, where he'll look to showcase his true potential.