Dembele determined to prove worthy of Messi praise after struggling to justify Barcelona’s faith

Ousmane Dembele accepts that he still has much to prove at Barcelona, with the France international determined to justify the faith shown in him by Lionel Messi and the Catalan giants as a whole.

The highly-rated winger secured a big-money switch to Camp Nou during the summer of 2017.

Barca opted to invest some of the funds they generated from the record-breaking €222 million (£200m/$249m) sale of Neymar in luring Dembele away from German giants Borussia Dortmund.

Much was expected of the 22-year-old upon his arrival, but struggles for form and fitness have prevented him from making the desired impact.

He can, however, call on some high-profile support in Catalunya, with five-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi among his supporters, and remains convinced that he can deliver on the grandest of stages.

Dembele told Barca TV: “Messi is a great player. I watched him on television when I was younger but playing with him and seeing him in real life is even better.

“It's an honour for him to tell me that I have talent, but I have to prove it on the pitch.”

Ousmane Dembele, Barca

He added on the challenges he faces after seeing fitness issues hold him back again at the start of 2019-20: “During the pre-season I was very well. Afterwards I got injured and I was out for a month. When I returned, I had some physical problems.

“Now I have to fight for my place because we have a great team and there is more competition than in past seasons. There are many very good forwards, with a lot of quality, and we're motivated to be even better.

“Since my arrival at Barca three years ago I have improved in my preparation for games. I go to the gym and warm up properly.

“Barca are a great team, with great players and that makes you want to win to give everything.

“I want to show what I can do on the pitch.

“The whole team helps me, but I especially receive support from Clement [Lenglet] and Samuel [Umtiti].

“With [Antoine] Griezmann we have been friends for a long time and he gives me many tips. He's a very good person and a good friend. He is doing very well with the rest of the group and didn't need much time to adapt.”

Ousmane Dembele Borussia Dortmund

The next outing for Barca and their collection of World Cup winners will see the Liga heavyweights take on Dortmund in the Champions League, with Dembele looking forward to facing some familiar faces.

He added: “Dortmund will be a special match for me. I still have friends amongst my ex-team-mates.

“We will be rivals, but nothing changes. I left three years ago and I haven't seen them since then.

“Emotionally, it will be a bit difficult, but I will be happy to see them and to play against them. 

“They're a team that attacks and doesn't tend to play defensively. They always play as a team and give everything, wanting to win every game, because they're a great side. They'll come with a lot of intensity, but Camp Nou awaits them.”