DEAN SAUNDERS knows what it takes to score goals at the highest level, and that’s why he is certain Moussa Dembele has everything in his locker to go to the every top.
During his playing career with Liverpool, Aston Villa, Benfica and Galatasaray, Saunders never forgot to match work-rate with ability, and he sees similar attributes in the Celtic striker.
The Welshman also loves the fact that Dembele can execute all sorts of finishes, from the simplest tap-ins to the most-breathtaking strikes.
That’s why Dembele is on the radar of the biggest clubs in Europe, and why the Hoops have his market value at £25m after he scored 32 goals in 49 appearances last season.
He is now getting back to top form after an injury lay-off at the start of the current campaign.
Saunders told The Sunday Post: “Moussa Dembele is doing very well.
“When he was at Fulham, he was talked about as a striker with good potential.
“But since his move to Celtic, the bar has been raised, and he is now producing to a different level.
“First and foremost, I see the basics in him. He works hard, and he helps his team-mates by dropping off or running into a channel.
“I love to see that in a player. I don’t like seeing lazy footballers.
“When I played for managers such as Graeme Souness and Ron Atkinson, they quite rightly demanded hard work for 90 minutes.
“They didn’t like to see players slacking during games.
“I was the same during my own managerial career. I never tolerated less than 100% effort from my players.
“Over and above Dembele’s work-rate and first-class attitude, he has wonderful talent.
“He scores all types of goals, from 20-yarders to the most simple of efforts from three yards out. He has clever movement and links the play very well.
“He also has the ability to create chances for himself. He will work hard to turn a nothing situation into a goalscoring chance.
“He’s quick and strong. So, yes, he has lots going for him.
“I’m not surprised that his play has attracted attention. Goalscorers are the highest commodity in football and they move from club to club for premium prices.
“But, at the moment, it looks as though the player is enjoying his football at Celtic and Brendan Rodgers and the Celtic supporters enjoy having him at the club.
“The partnerships between them all are working wonderfully well.”
In a week when the standard of Scottish football has been ridiculed from pundits down south, particularly former Celtic striker, Tony Cascarino, Saunders preferred to look positively at the game north of the border.
Cascarino played down Celtic’s achievements of going 63 domestic games unbeaten, and declared it would be like Manchester City going down to English League One and thrashing all before them week-in, week-out.
Saunders appreciates that Scottish football tries its best to produce a good product under difficult circumstances.
He said: “I’m only seeing Scottish football from afar.
“But when you have 60,000 at Parkhead and 50,000 at Ibrox, as well as Hibs, Hearts and Aberdeen getting towards 20,000 for home games, then that has to be applauded.
“There are some really good footballers playing in the Scottish game, and we’ve just been talking about one of them, Dembele.
“I also hear excellent things about Kieran Tierney. So there are a number of things to be proud of.”
At national-team level, Saunders shares the frustrations of every Scotland player and supporter.
It’s now almost 20 years since our country qualified for a major Finals, and Saunders went through the exact same thing during his time as a Wales player.
Despite having players of the highest quality in the past 30 years such as Neville Southall, Mark Hughes, Ian Rush, Ryan Giggs, Kevin Ratcliffe, John Hartson and Craig Bellamy, they also never got to a tournament.
It was only last summer it was achieved, for the first time since 1958, when Chris Coleman led his players to Euro 2016.
Saunders said: “I was delighted for Chris, the players and the Welsh supporters to finally do it.
“It was a long time coming. I was very proud.
“Of course, I was desperate to do it when I played for Wales. We all were.
“But we just couldn’t get over the line. Yes, it was an extremely frustrating period of my career.
“But you must never give up and always remain upbeat.
“That’s what Scotland must do for the Euro 2020 campaign.
“A new manager will be appointed in the near future and there has to be optimism and belief.
“There are some very good Scottish players, and the time to achieve a special moment in history can’t be too far off.
“I hope Wales – and Scotland – qualify for the next one.”