Joe Gelhardt knows what it is like to play alongside a Barcelona player, having lined up alongside Raphinha on numerous occasions last season – but he may not have expected to play in front of one while on loan at Sunderland.
Gelhardt led the line once again on Wednesday as the Black Cats faced automatic-promotion chasers Sheffield United at the Stadium of Light.
And there was one surprise spectator in the stands, with the Sky Sports cameras picking up that Ousmane Dembele was sat alongside Sunderland owner Kyril Louis Dreyfus.
Ousmane Dembele in attendance to watch Gelhardt
Dembele has a couple of interesting connections to English football, including one involving Leeds.
In 2018, it was revealed that the £95 million star had chosen to start a career on Football Manager with non-league side Winchester City.
Meanwhile, Patrick Bamford told The Official Leeds United Podcast in 2021 that he had been told by Illan Meslier that Dembele wanted the striker’s shirt as he is a big fan of the Whites. He was also after a jersey from Kalvin Phillips.
Unfortunately, Gelhardt did not manage to turn on the style in front of the Frenchman. Sunderland ended up throwing away a 1-0 lead and losing 2-1 against Paul Heckingbottom’s side.
Gelhardt has not had the easiest time since moving to Sunderland on loan. He has found goals difficult to come by. And he is probably not being helped by the fact that Tony Mowbray lacks many other options up front right now.
There is still time in the season for Gelhardt to turn around his fortunes. And there is still plenty for Sunderland to play for.
We, of course, know how good Gelhardt can be.
And the good news is that we probably do not need to worry about Barcelona making a bid anytime soon following Dembele’s scouting trip on Wednesday.