'An outstanding talent' -- What players, managers say about Mousa Dembele

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino raised eyebrows at this week's news conference when he described midfielder Mousa Dembele as one of five geniuses he has been fortunate enough to work with in his career. The others were his former Newell's Old Boys teammate and roommate Diego Maradona, considered by many to be the greatest player in history, and Ronaldinho, Jay-Jay Okocha and Ivan de la Pena.

It was not the first time that Pochettino has described Dembele as a genius. In August, the Spurs boss joked that his team "do not exist" when the Belgium international is injured. Clearly Pochettino does not doubt Dembele's quality and importance to Tottenham, but the player remains a divisive figure on the terraces, with some supporters still frustrated by his lack of end product.

In the media, too, Dembele generally is not spoken about as one of Tottenham's best players -- Harry Kane and Dele Alli, at least, are mentioned ahead of him -- and he has tended to be an afterthought in discussions of Belgium's "golden generation." The 29-year-old has never been championed for individual honours in the way that Chelsea's N'Golo Kante is now.

Injuries, inconsistency and a lack of silverware are reasons for this, but Pochettino is not the only person to work with or against Dembele to be astounded by his ability. Is it simply impossible to appreciate his talent from the comfort of our living rooms or the relative remoteness of the terraces?

Here, ESPN FC picks out the best quotes on Dembele from those who have gotten up close and personal with the player:

Everton's Ross Barkley, March 2017

"He's probably the hardest player I've played against. He's a strong player, he gets his foot in well and dictates play."

Belgium and Tottenham teammate Jan Vertonghen, Feb. 2017

"I don't think people know how good Mousa is. You can ask every single player in the team and I don't think you can describe how good Mousa is. You can only know if you play with him or against him, see him train for a couple of weeks, then you'll find out. He's a special player and I can't think of anyone else who is a bit like him. For me, he's up there with the best two or three midfielders in the league."

Tottenham teammate Alli, when asked who the best player at the club is, Nov. 2016

"In my opinion Dembele -- I think he's very good. His feet are unbelievable. He's so big and he shifts his body so easily."

Tottenham midfield partner Victor Wanyama, Nov. 2016

"I think the best central midfielder I've played alongside is Mousa Dembele. It's an easy choice because he is unbelievable."

Former Fulham teammate Danny Murphy, Nov. 2016

"He's a nightmare for players to play against and I've spoken to a lot of players who really, really don't like playing against him because if you press him and get after him, he skips by you and you can't get after him to win the ball back. You can't get in his face very easily because he's so strong and good with the ball that he can just burst past you, so you have to be very careful when you play against him."

Former Tottenham teammate Jermaine Jenas, May 2016

"His left foot is scary and he is silky as well as strong. I've seen him physically bully players like Victor Wanyama, who is an ox, but he is also capable of gliding past people like Ryan Giggs. There's no one else in the league who can do what he does."

Former Tottenham teammate Scott Parker, May 2016

"He is one of the most difficult players that I've played against. ... You know he will go on his left foot, but he can manipulate the ball and use his body. He is the best at shielding the ball."

Former Fulham manager Mark Hughes, April 2016

"The players used to call him 'the doctor' because every time you give Mousa the ball he makes things better. He's an outstanding talent. We loved working with Mousa because of his ability and his personality."

Belgium teammate Kevin De Bruyne, April 2016

"For me, in a five-a-side, he's the best player in the world. He's so strong on the ball, you can never take the ball of him. Offensively and defensively, he's one of the best."

Belgium teammate Wesley Sonck on the country's "golden generation," Oct. 2015

"I insist: the greatest talent is Mousa Dembele. Some may say they want Eden [Hazard] or De Bruyne, but Mousa has the most qualities -- it's not normal how strong he is on the ball. I've seen him during training turn [Vincent] Kompany into a fool."

Crystal Palace's James McArthur, when asked to name the best player he has played against, Aug. 2015

"You're not going to believe me, I get asked this quite a lot and I say the same person. A lot of people are surprised, but I'd say Mousa Dembele when he was at Fulham. As a midfielder, you can cope with people who pass the ball, but he was a player that when you'd get close he would just run by you. He was so powerful."

Former Tottenham assistant manager Les Ferdinand, Dec. 2014

"We used to say to him: 'You're the next person to go to Real Madrid, you're the next guy to go to Real Madrid from this club.' "

Former Tottenham and Fulham manager Martin Jol, Sept. 2012

"Dembele is probably the best player on the ball I've ever seen."