Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele is enjoying having five-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi as a team-mate and said the Camp Nou superstar "makes football easier."
Dembele, 21, is enjoying a much-improved second season at Barca and told the club's official website just how much it benefits him to have a player so talented alongside him in attack.
He said: "It's great, he makes football easier. I give him the ball and he does incredible things. When he's on the pitch it's easier for a forward, because the rivals focus mainly on him."
It's a tantalising prospect for a player like Dembele—who operates so well in limited spaces—to have Messi running distractions for him. Not everything came off as hoped in Saturday's tense 1-0 win over Real Valladolid, but Dembele reminded of his potential on the ball:
Even Messi has his bad days at the office, however, and the Argentina star passed up the opportunity to secure a 2-0 victory with a missed penalty late on at the Camp Nou. He scored the only goal with a spot-kick earlier in the match.
That wasn't the only part of Messi's performance that raised concern on Saturday, per sportswriter Roy Nemer:
After struggling during his first campaign in Catalonia, albeit he was not helped by a serious thigh injury, the France international illustrates on a near-weekly basis why he belongs among the European elite.
That being said, he's still some way off catching up to La Liga's top scorer this season in terms of impact in front of goal:
Dembele has netted 13 times in 29 matches this season—eight in La Liga—and already beaten his previous best for goals scored in a senior campaign (12). He's also scored more than three times as many goals for Barca as he did in his first season at the club (four) despite playing only six matches more.
Combined with his five assists in all competitions this term, Dembele has been a valuable tool for Ernesto Valverde, but Messi's 30 goals and 17 assists in 30 matches puts him in a bracket of his own, per Goal:
The Blaugrana lead La Liga by seven points and have hopes of winning the Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League crowns, with Dembele and Messi set to travel to Lyon in the round of 16 on Tuesday.