Mousa Dembele has tipped Josh Onomah for a bright future, hailing his 20-year-old Tottenham team-mate as one of the best players of his generation.
While Onomah endured a frustrating season at White Hart Lane last term, only starting three matches in all competitions, he has showcased his ability at the Under-20 World Cup this summer, starring in central midfield as England won the tournament.
The academy graduate has since discussed his admiration for Dembele during Spurs’ tour of the USA, describing the Belgian as his “role model” and expressing his belief that the pair have similar styles.
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Some may be loath to entertain such comparisons just yet, feeling they are rather premature – but Dembele himself can see parallels and admits it has been a subject of discussion among Tottenham’s senior stars.
“The older players talk a lot about this as well, and we’ve spoken about Josh a lot,” he said. “Everybody knows it, and I think of his generation he’s one of the best. Maybe there are a lot of similarities – he can drive the ball as well, he’s very strong and quick too.
“It’s a matter of the last step I think. Everyone’s seen the way he’s training now in pre-season, and I hope for him it’s his year. He has the quality, everybody knows it.
“I think the year before last Josh played more and showed everyone he can play in the Premier League.
“Last year, everybody saw Harry Winks too and everybody knows he has a lot of quality. It’s a good thing to have competition.”
For his own part, Dembele is seeking to stay injury-free after being hampered by a long-term foot injury, which eventually required surgery in May.
Mauricio Pochettino revealed at the end of last season that the 30-year-old had been playing through the pain in a bid to keep Tottenham’s title bid and FA Cup dream alive.
Although the mercurial midfielder is experiencing less soreness now and played for 60 minutes against Paris St Germain in Orlando on Saturday, he accepts he will always have to manage an element of discomfort – as he has done for some time.
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“[The foot] is ok,” he said. “In the beginning [of pre-season] it was a bit difficult but I’ve a lot of sessions behind me now and it gets better and better to be honest.
“All season through I had a bit of pain. But it was always bearable until it was a bit less so, so I wanted to have an operation.
“Of course, there were some games [when it was particularly difficult] but there are different solutions to solve it – anti-inflammatory and this kind of thing, so the pain goes away a bit. But I told myself at the end of the season that I needed to do something – ‘I can’t continue like this’.
“It’s not really on my mind. When you have pain, you have pain. It’s always like 30 per cent still there. Now with the operation, it’s much better.”
Asked if he feels he will always have to manage the issue, Dembele said: “Yes. But I don’t think there are football players playing at 100 per cent, without anything wrong.
“All my career I’ve played with things. This was too much and that’s why we had to do something. The club gave me the freedom to do it, and now it’s much better.”
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