IF French media reports stating that Moussa Dembele will miss the Europa League match against Rangers at Ibrox on Thursday night due to a muscle injury prove to be true, it will be a huge blow for Lyon.
Because new manager Peter Bosz has helped former Celtic striker Moussa Dembele put a nightmare season behind him, rediscover his goalscoring form and become one of the hottest forwards in his homeland.
The former France Under-21 internationalist only netted once for Les Gones in the first half of the 2020/21 campaign and was loaned out to Atletico Madrid in January.
However, the 25-year-old was unable, despite Atletico having a €33.5m purchase option on him, to establish himself as a regular starter at the Wanda Metropolitano ahead of Angel Correa, Joao Felix and Luis Suarez.
He had plundered 24 goals in the 2019/20 season – a tally which included a double in a Champions League quarter-final victory over Manchester City – but he failed to find the target during his stint in Spain.
Dembele, though, is currently the joint top scorer in Ligue 1 alongside Kylian Mbappe of Paris Saint-Germain and Amine Gouiri of Nice with four goals.
He bagged a first-half double in a 3-3 draw with Clermont at home last month and quickly followed that up with the winner against Nice away.
The man who Lyon paid Celtic a £20m transfer fee for back in 2018 also opened the scoring in the league match against Strasbourg at the Groupama Stadium on Sunday and his side went on to triumph 3-1.
Herve Penot, who covers Lyon for French sports newspaper L’Equipe, revealed that Dembele had wanted to leave when he returned to Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes this summer.
However, Dutch coach Bosz, who was appointed at the end of May, quickly made the unsettled player his first choice forward and also named him vice-captain and he has been rewarded with goals.
“Last season was Dembele’s worst at Lyon,” said Penot. “He struggled for the first four or five months and then went on loan to Atletico Madrid. Atletico won La Liga, but he hardly played in Spain.
“He came back and said that he wanted to leave. But I don’t think there were many clubs interested in signing him given how poorly he had played the season before.
“And Peter Bosz wanted him to stay because he needed a striker. He knew if he got the ball to Dembele around the opposition goalkeeper he would be able to score. I think Dembele understood very quickly that he would be the main guy.”
He added: “Bosz was clever. He made him the vice-captain of the team even though he had left the club last season. The manager wanted to show him that he really respected him and really trusted him.
“Dembele has come back into the side and scored four goals. He is currently the top scorer in the French league and the goal he scored against Strasbourg on Sunday was amazing.
“I don’t know if he is as influential a player for Lyon as he is for Celtic, but he is three years older than he was and has three years’ more experience. He will pose a threat up front against Rangers on Thursday night.”