After Neymar’s spectacular departure, Barcelona have been searching for worthy replacements in their attacking trident. The two names that seemed most likely were Ousmane Dembele from Borussia Dortmund, and Phillipe Coutinho at Liverpool. After successive bids were rejected by Liverpool for their Brazilian playmaker, Barcelona went after their next option; Ousmane Dembele, the up-and-coming French winger who just a season ago was transferred from Rennes for €15 million. He has now moved to Barcelona for an initial fee of £100 million, but that can go up to as much as £135 million from bonuses related to player performance.
Dortmund knew Barcelona had somewhere in the region of £200 million burning a hole in their pockets, so as the shrewd club that they are, they smartly raised Dembele’s price to get closer to half the fortune Barcelona were sitting on. The main question many onlookers and fans have is: will Dembele adequately replace Neymar? The jury is out on that because of Dembele’s age, but he certainly has the ability to develop into a player as good as Neymar. At only 20 years old, he managed to bag 11 goals and an impressive 23 assists (all competitions) for Dortmund last season, a number he’s unlikely to improve on in his first season in Spain but he could turn out to be an integral part of the team.
No player can replace Neymar immediately, but does Dembele bring similar attributes? Definitely. He’s notorious for his pace and acceleration and an unusual ability to use both his feet with equal ease, although he’s actually left-footed. His comfort on his right foot even extends to preferring to take shots with his right, even resorting to right-footed penalties now and then. The primary benefit of adding him to the team is that his youth and speed make a good counter-weight to the experience amongst the rest of Barcelona’s front line. Without Neymar, they’ll be relying on Messi and Suarez, both players that are on the wrong side of thirty and who don’t possess the physical attributes they once did. Deploying Dembele down the left side should provide them with a much better attacking balance.
Dembele’s addition is, however, not sufficient to boost Barcelona’s chances above Real Madrid’s in the league or Champions League this season. With all the changes in personnel for Barcelona, as well as a new manager, they’ll need this season for the squad to find some cohesion. While Dembele could always slot in easily and Barcelona may find their feet quicker than many predict, it seems like an unlikely possibility. Another aspect that pundits and fans will keep a keen eye on is how Dembele will adjust to the added pressure of playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world.
At Dortmund he didn’t have the kind of scrutiny that signing for Barcelona brings, and the press and fans will likely only give him a short grace period before they’ll expect him to be filling Neymar’s boots. For those who want to get a closet look at the wonder kid there’s an extensive video below showcasing some of his talents:
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