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Transfer battle: Belgian beast shades Frenchman in close battle of midfielders

Abdoulaye Doucouré and Mousa Dembélé are both at different stages of their career; one is beginning to make a name for himself, the other is an established star in the Premier League. 

Therefore, they have both had different careers so far at their clubs. Doucouré has only played one full season at Watford, whereas Dembélé is entering his seventh season with The Lilywhites.

This doesn’t stop comparing the transfer of each player to their club, because both have strengths and weaknesses. Also, both are primarily defensive midfielders, which makes the comparison between these two easier.

Taking that into account, let’s compare these two transfers…

Abdoulaye Doucouré

When Watford signed midfielder Doucouré from Ligue 1 outfit Rennes in 2016 for a fee of £5.4m, fans didn’t really know what to expect from him. He was loaned immediately to La Liga outfit Granada, meaning the 23-year-old player would have to wait until the following season to try and impress at Vicarage Road.

The Frenchman’s (valued at £13.5m on Transfermarkt.co.uk) initial arrival was met with some scepticism, with some believing The Hornets’ midfield was already well equipped, very few predicted the season that the new man would have in 2017/18.

The former France under-21 player played 37 games in the Premier League, scoring seven times, becoming the clubs top scorer that season and being voted Watford’s Player of the Season. It was a fantastic campaign, where Doucouré went from maligned outsider, to one of the Premier League’s most difficult players to face.

His energy and physicality made him a handful for both attacks and defences, as he made a blistering start to his Premier League career, attracting a lot of interest from some of the biggest clubs in Europe.

What’s best for Watford, is that at £5.4m, that is a bargain in today’s prices. While it was a club record, it still is paltry compared to the prices of some players. To think, only a few months before, Man United shelled out over £80m more for Pogba, who was the same age as Doucouré. It’s a stat like that which goes to show how much of a successful transfer this was for Watford. While, it was a transfer that could possibly not have taken off, it still wasn’t a great risk because the club didn’t waste a lot of money.

In terms of performances and value for money, this is one of the best transfers in recent history. The only downside to this transfer is that it will be very hard for The Hornets to keep hold of the Frenchman. Vicarage Road would be seen as more of a stepping stone in Doucouré’s career, where he will hope to move on to greater things in some of Europe’s biggest clubs. The quality of a transfer is sometimes based on how long the player stays, or plans to stay at the club, which may not be very long in the Frenchman’s case.

However, at the time of buying him, he was an unknown quantity, so it is hard to know if the club knew that he would have this kind of ascendency. Moreover, if Watford are to sell Doucouré, they could ask a fairly hefty price for the midfielder. Watford could expect to recoup significantly more than they splashed out for him, which is another strength to the transfer.

Overall though, this is one of the best transfers in recent Premier League history, certainly in Watford’s, in terms of value for money.

 TT Grade A

Mousa Dembélé

When Dembélé made the journey across London in 2012 to join Tottenham from Fulham, he had more of a reputation preceding him than Doucouré did. The Belgian had just come out of a very successful 2011/12 season with The Cottagers, and it was no surprise that Tottenham made a £11.7m swoop for the midfielder.

The Lilywhites had just lost midfielder Luka Modrić to Real Madrid, and desperately needed to fill the gap left by the Croatian maestro.

Since then, Dembélé (valued at £16.2m on Transfermarkt.co.uk) has been a rock in a Tottenham team that has gone from a perennial top ten side in the Premier League, to title challengers over the past few seasons. He has been at the helm of some of the club’s biggest results in recent history, as they enter their third successive season in the Champions League, hoping to make further inroads into Europe’s elite competition.

The former AZ Alkmaar man has gone on to make 177 Premier League appearances to date for The Lilywhites in six seasons, and has spent the best days of his career at White Hart Lane. At 31 he is certainly not over the hill, but it is hard to think that he will go on to have a more successful career at a new club.

He has become one of the most respected midfielders in world football, known for his strength, dribbling and ability to keep hold of the ball. He has been the heartbeat of the Tottenham side for six years now, iconically shrugging off defenders with his direct running.

What will continue to be a blip on the Belgian’s record, as with every other Tottenham player, is that he has failed to win a trophy at the club. This has haunted many players at White Hart Lane, and with rumours that Dembélé will be leaving in the near future, he may not get the chance to achieve something that may plague him. However, the blame certainly cannot be put entirely on the 31-year-old for Tottenham’s inability to clinch silverware, but it may be something that stays with the player. But there may still be more to come from the midfielder at Tottenham.

Nonetheless, this has been one of Tottenham’s best signings in recent history. He has marked his stamp on the Premier League with his unique style and Mauricio Pochettino will have a very tough job trying to replace him.

TT Grade A+

TT Verdict:

These are two players here that have made great impacts at their clubs. However, Dembélé has to be seen as the greater transfer.

Doucouré has had a great season with Watford, and will probably have another one this year, but it is likely that he will move on. Watford will only be seen as a stepping-stone for the Frenchman as he plans to build his career.

On the other hand, Dembélé has been a servant to The Lilywhites, and, while the term club legend may be a stretch, he has built a formidable reputation in north London.

Even though Tottenham did not spend a huge amount of money on the Belgian midfielder, at this juncture in his career, it would still be hard to recoup that money if he leaves, whereas it is the opposite for Doucouré.

Whilst Watford could see Doucouré as an investment, where they can expect a sizeable return, it terms of what a player has done on the pitch for their club, this one has to go to Dembélé.

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