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STREET TREAT DEMBELE

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MOUSSA DEMBELE is likely to perform in the city he calls home when Celtic take on Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes in the Champions League tomorrow night.

The 21-year-old Hoops striker has already stacked up some memorable moments in football such as his hat-trick against Sevco Rangers, 32 goals on the way to Brendan Rodgers’ side being acclaimed as ‘The Invincibles’ in last season’s silverware clean sweep and even three strikes in 12 minutes for the French Under-21s.

Remarkably, though, these exceptional feats cannot compare with his favourite memory – a game on the streets of the French capital when he was a kid!

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He said: “It was my street corner against another street corner. We won 10-9 and I think I ended up scoring 10 goals. TEN goals! When you’re young and playing against another neighbourhood, that’s important.

“It’s important to win such games. It’s a great memory from when I was young – a great memory of street football.

“I love everything about this sport. It has been a pleasure for me. I learned almost everything I know through football. It taught me a lot of things in terms of being a man and a human being, as well as a footballer. It really means a lot to me.”

Real Madrid boss Zinidine Zidane, the French great, is among those leading the praise for the powerhouse marksman and has already told Dembele he can become as good as the greatest strikers in modern history.

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Zidane said: “I have played with the greatest strikers – Ronaldo, Henry, Raul. You knew on the biggest occasions they would win you games – and Dembele is already showing that.

“I do understand the biggest clubs in Europe are being linked with him and that will be his destination eventually. But my advice for now is ignore it all.”

Dembele said: “It means a lot to me when a legend – because Zidane is a legend – praises and makes positive comments about me.

“I was pleased, but at first I was shocked to hear that. The fact my work is not something that goes unnoticed and the fact that a legend like Zidane speaks like that of me, my football ability and especially my future, gives an incentive to wake up in the morning and do a better job than others, and get where I want to be.”

The player has been hampered by a hamstring problem this season, but he has still managed to claim six goals from 13 appearances although he drew a blank against Ross County in Dingwall at the weekend.

But he is relishing the chance to return to play at PSG where his idol as a kid, Nicolas Anelka, started his senior career after a similar upbringing in the Parisien suburbs.

Anelka left Paris after one season to sign for Arsenal and Dembele also headed for London as a teenager, opting to sign for Fulham when he could barely speak a word of English.

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Dembele added: “I saw myself in him as a player. He is a man and a player I really admire.

“I was 15 going on 16 when I moved to London and, yes, it was an important decision for me and especially for my family.

“For my mother and father, having their child leave home is not easy. It was a difficult decision to take, but I took it. I knew it was good for me, for my future, and I was proved to be right many times.”

Dembele played in the previous Champions League game at Parkhead – the 2-1 loss against Bayern Munich – which was his first start in the group stage this season and is relishing a return to Paris.

He added: “It’s a game like any other, against an important team, where I have to be focused.

“It would be good for me and my family to go back to the stadium and club where I grew up as a player and where I learned everything.”

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