Barcelona Finally Signs Skillful 20-year-old Winger to replace Neymar
After some weeks of haggling and gossip, Spanish giant Barcelona finally has its Neymar replacement. And if various incentives are ultimately met, Barca could end up paying almost two-thirds of the Neymar fee to procure him.
The replacement is Ousmane Dembele, a 20-year-old French winger widely considered one of the hottest prospects in the world. He has officially joined Barcelona from Borussia Dortmund for a base fee of €105 million “plus add-ons,” according to the club. Those bonuses, according to Dortmund, could bump the initial €105 million up to €147 million.
The €147 million price tag would not only represent 66 percent of the €222 million Barcelona received from PSG for Neymar. It would shatter the transfer record for an under-21 player by a whopping €80 million. The previous record deal was Manchester City’s for Raheem Sterling in 2015.
It is a mind-boggling fee for an insanely talented yet still unpolished player. But it is not an overpay. This is what the market heaped upon Barcelona. The Neymar cash became a burden. The inflated market became a multiplier. Only a select few players in the sport could replace Neymar. Dembele is one if them.
Could does not equal will, and critics will argue that Barcelona paid for will. But it paid for a player whose princely talent cannot be purchased with anything less than a princely sum. Dembele, at 20, already possesses Neymar’s dribbling ability. He already possesses the Brazilian’s open-field pace. And he can play a fine ball into the box as well.
But he is not Neymar. Nobody is. Let’s make that very clear. Dembele is nowhere near the goal threat that his predecessor on the Barca left wing is. He found the net 10 times in 50 appearances for Dortmund. He is an average finisher and not yet an instinctive maneuverer in the penalty area. He has scored fewer professional goals than Neymar scored during the 2014-15 season alone.