There wasn’t a better time for Ernesto Valverde to introduce Ousmane Dembele than in the 68th minute of Barcelona’s match against Espanyol on Saturday.
Lionel Messi had just scored his third goal when Valverde decided to bring Dembele on in place of Gerard Deulofeu.
It meant the 20-year-old was under no pressure whatsoever when he took to the Camp Nou turf to make his Barcelona debut.
And that showed, with the £135.5 million signing from Borussia Dortmund seeming to enjoy the stage alongside Messi and Luis Suarez.
Dembele’s assist for Suarez in the 90th minute was the highlight and it left Barcelona fans eager to watch MSD’s relationship grow.
The France international has played with Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba for France and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Marco Reus for Dortmund, but there must be something extra special about sharing the field with Messi.
The word he used to describe playing alongside the five-time Ballon d’Or winner after last night’s match was “strange”.
“I’m very happy, it was strange to be alongside the best in the world,” he told BeIN Sports, per Sport. “It was a good victory and I felt a lot of emotions. I’ve fulfilled a dream.”
Dembele has big shoes to fill, replacing the recently departed Neymar in the Barcelona side, but he has plenty of wise heads around to offer him guidance and support.
That doesn’t just include Messi and Suarez but Gerard Pique and Andres Iniesta, too.
What Suarez said to Dembele before kick-off
The Uruguayan forward spoke to Dembele before kick-off and delivered an order that the Frenchman is likely to follow for a very long time.
“Suarez said to me to give him the ball and he would score. I did it and he scored, I’m very happy,” Dembele added.
It all sounds so simple. Locate Suarez, pass to Suarez, watch Suarez score.
Watch Dembele’s assist below and check out his individual highlights by clicking HERE.
Dembele will be eager to start on Tuesday
While Valverde preferred to start Deulofeu against Espanyol, it’s surely only a matter of time before Dembele is a regular in the starting line-up.
It will be interesting to see who gets the nod in Barcelona’s Champions League group stage match against Juventus on Tuesday.
It was Juventus, of course, who knocked the Blaugrana out of the Champions League last season, Max Allegri’s side cruising to a 3-0 aggregate win in the quarter-final.
Barcelona have a score to settle. And Dembele will be eager to help them do it.