France star Ousmane Dembele has admitted he will have no room for sentiment for Lionel Messi in Sunday’s World Cup final as the holders look to retain the trophy when they face Argentina.
The final represents the last chance for Messi, now 35, to win football’s greatest prize — he has already suggested he will not play again at a World Cup.
“With the great career he has had it would be good if he won the World Cup, but we also want to win it,” Dembele, who played alongside Messi for four years at Barcelona, told reporters on Friday.
“We are France, we are fighting for our country, for our team, to finish the job after all we have done to get here.
“It is true that this is the trophy he is missing, but we are also here to make our country proud. I hope France win it.”
The 25-year-old Dembele has been a key player for France in Qatar, starting every game on their run to the final except their defeat by Tunisia in their final group match when they had already qualified for the knockout stage.
It is a change from 2018 when he made four appearances in France’s victorious campaign in Russia but featured for just two minutes in the knockout rounds and did not play at all as Les Bleus beat Belgium in the semi-final and then Croatia in the final.
The French team has changed considerably since then, not least because key players such as N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Lucas Hernandez are now missing due to injury.
But Dembele also said that the experience of having won the trophy last time means the mood in the French camp is very different this time.
“There are some similarities, but 2018 was something else. There were more crazy guys in the team,” he joked.
“We have a great atmosphere this time, but 2018 was our first final in 20 years, it’s not the same.
“There is much more calmness, more experience after 2018. We were a bit more euphoric at the time after we beat Belgium in the semi-final.
“This time our thoughts immediately turned to Sunday.”