ORLANDO — Mousa Dembele says he will never be 100 percent again, despite successful foot surgery, but that his fitness is improving all the time.
Dembele delayed an operation on his left foot to help Tottenham’s pursuit of the FA Cup and league title last season, but he featured in just one of their final five games because of the long-standing issue.
The Belgium international went under the knife in May after Spurs’ season finale at Hull City, and he returned in Saturday’s 4-2 win over Paris Saint-Germain in the International Champions Cup in Orlando, impressing for an hour.
Asked if he would always be managing the injury, the 30-year-old said: “Yeah. But I don’t think there are any footballers playing at 100 percent, without anything wrong. All my career I’ve played with things — this was too much and that’s why I had to do something.
“All through last season I had a bit of pain. But it was always bearable until the end, so I wanted to have an operation. It’s not really on my mind. When you have pain, you have pain and it’s always like 30 percent there.
“Of course, there were some games when I was struggling a lot but there are different solutions to solve it — anti-inflammatory and this kind of thing, so the pain goes away a bit. But I told myself at the end of the season, I needed to do something, I can’t go on like this. The club gave me the freedom to do it, and now it’s much better, so I’m happy.
“The foot is OK [since the surgery]. In the beginning it was a bit difficult but I’ve a lot of training sessions behind me now and it gets better and better to be honest.”
Dembele faces competition for his place this season from academy graduates Harry Winks and Joshua Onomah, who earned comparisons for his performances in England under-20s’ World Cup win in South Korea.
“The older players talk a lot about this, and we’ve spoken about Josh a lot as well,” Dembele said. “Everybody knows it, and I think of his generation he’s one of the best. Maybe there are a lot of similarities — he can drive the ball as well, he’s very strong and quick too.
“It’s a matter of the last step I think. Everyone saw the way he is training now in preseason — the hope for him that it’s his year. He has the quality, everybody knows it.
“I think the year before last Josh played more and showed everyone he can play in the Premier League. Last year, everybody saw Harry Winks and everybody knows he has a lot of quality. It’s a good thing to have competition.”
Dembele also echoed Christian Eriksen in saying that Spurs do not need new signings to have success, saying: “It’s a very good thing to have a group that stays together and understands each other as well.
“The first year with the manager was different because it was a new philosophy, and now the last few years everybody understands what he means, everybody knows what to do.
“We don’t change five or six players, you have to start over with new players. I think the way to do it is very good. The quality we have now — everybody is looking in the same direction.”