Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone / Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone / Silence the pianos and with muffled drum / Retire the number 19 shirt, let the mourners come. “Dembélé Blues”, W H Auden — I know what you’re thinking. Since when did esteemed 20th-century poet W H Auden pen a poignant verse chronicling the imminent departure of Mousa Dembélé from Tottenham Hotspur during the 2018 summer transfer window? OK, so I may have made some slight alterations to the 1936 masterpiece that is Funeral Blues — but only to convey how I’m reluctantly coming to terms with the Belgian’s anticipated exit from N17 in the coming weeks. (Not very well, obviously.) If you couldn’t tell already: I love Mousa Dembélé. There, I’ve said it. At the risk of death by bloggers’ backlash, Mousa Dembélé is the player who I’ve appreciated watching most in a Spurs shirt these past few seasons. When I see that Pochettino’s Spurs are cruising, to me, it’s Dembélé who’s behind the wheel. And now as prospective suitors from Naples, Turin and China (with £30m to spare) are granted the necessary access to woo our man south of London, I’m left to reflect on a player whose distinctive talent and inimitable style of play is like any other I’ve witnessed at the Lane. Yes, there are detractors — and rightly so. Seven goals in 171 games will hardly propel a player to legendary status and universal acclaim; his mercurial tendencies still have many supporters contemplating The Nature of The Beast even after six years at the club. It was back in August 2012 when Dembélé's Spurs career began. The then-Fulham man was acquired for £15m in the final days of the summer transfer window. Unenlightened folk had considered the Belgian a like-for-like replacement for Luka Modrić — the Croat having swapped his Lilywhite shirt for one of the Royal variety only two days prior. However, a playmaker’s quick-fix replacement a Dembélé does not make. The player had been on Spurs’s radar pre-André Villas-Boas’s reign. (The club’s spidey sense was tingling during the Harry Redknapp era.) It was Frank Lampard who alerted us; letting slip to old uncle 'Arry that a Mousa Dembélé of Fulham had proved his toughest opponent in the Premier League. With hindsight, perhaps Lampard feels as though Chelsea missed a trick by not signing Dembélé. Piet de Visser, personal advisor to Roman Abramovich, certainly thinks as much. The Dutch superscout, responsible for discovering the teenage talents of Neymar, Kevin De Bruyne, Ronaldo and Romário, still laments the Blues for not pursuing Dembélé — despite his glowing endorsement. "I fell in love with Mousa Dembele during the 2008 Olympics," recalled de Visser. "He's a world-class player, but [clubs] have often played him out of position. He's not a striker or a second striker, not even a number 10. He's at his best as a central midfielder, as an '8'. “He will never score 15 goals in a season, but he has a high work rate, a strong body and an excellent passing game. He's an all-rounder. Somebody with power, technique and stamina… With Fulham, against Chelsea, he once completely outplayed Lampard.” And the veneration doesn’t end there. Martin Jol (who managed Dembélé at Fulham) surmised: “[He] is probably the best player on the ball I've ever seen.” His current teammates — Alli, Dier, Rose, Winks, Wanyama —all name The Beast as Tottenham’s most talented when asked as much. High praise indeed. The love-in continues… Mauricio Pochettino has vaunted that his player is a “footballing genius”, even joking that “without Mousa Dembélé, [Tottenham] do not exist!” Pochettino also reiterated de Visser’s stance that coaches had misjudged the Belgian’s best position as an adolescent — a costly mistake that ultimately hindered Dembélé's development as a player. But my standout Pochettino quote regarding Dembélé are the comparisons to Maradona and Ronaldinho. Many misconstrued their desired effect: Pochettino wasn’t saying Dembélé was better, or even as good as the South Americans, just that — like Maradona and Ronaldinho — Dembélé's technique and approach to the game is so unique, so deft, that it can’t be mimicked or, more importantly, taught. And he’s right. There’s no other way to put it. Apart from, maybe, the assertion that Dembélé as an athlete is a freak of nature. To my mind, never has there been a player who can coalesce the stature and strength of double-decker bus with the grace and finesse normally reserved for a ballet dancer. When in full swing, he’s akin to a year 11 schoolboy holding off hounds of weedy year sevens as they attempt to reclaim their stolen ball at break time. But let’s take a break from the ode: why are we willing to sell (despite all of the above)? The answer comes down to long-term fitness, a probable pay day for the player and acceptance — an acceptance that Dembélé has given all he can for Spurs, and is deserving of his twilight years in the sun. (Pochettino and the higher powers at Spurs hold huge respect for Dembélé on the basis that he has played through the pain barrier on numerous occasions, this season in particular.) It's decided then: Dembele’s departure date approaches. But how will he be remembered by the Spurs faithful? For many, as a player who didn’t score or assist enough (although I do recall many saying the same about Modric before he left). For others, a great player who could, and should, have been even greater. Finally, back to Piet de Visser. The scout who “fell in love” with Dembélé. When other managers and scouts weren’t drawn to the midfield enforcer as he was, de Visser asked himself: “Am I crazy? Why can't anyone see it?” Well, de Visser, I certainly do see the beauty in the Beast. It's a shame others can't do the same.