Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu says Ousmane Dembele is a better player than Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar, who he was signed to replace in 2017.
Neymar moved to PSG for his €222 million release clause, with Barca using that cash to fund a €105m deal for Dembele from Dortmund, but his first season was blighted by injuries. He has done well this year, scoring 13 goals and setting up eight more in 33 appearances but talk of Neymar returning to Camp Nou remains.
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Bartomeu would not be drawn on if he could see the Neymar playing for Barca again in the future, but did say that he believes Dembele is now a better player.
“I won’t say yes or no,” he told SER Catalunya when asked if Neymar coming back to Barcelona could be feasible. “I will say that with the money [we received for Neymar], we invested in the future, [spending it] on young players. With that money we went for players like Dembele and [Philippe] Coutinho.
“Dembele is, for me, better than Neymar. He’s at Barca and he is better. We are really happy with him”
Barca hope that Dembele, who is still only 21, will be an important player for many years as the club’s key players get closer to retirement.
Midfielder Arthur and Ajax’s Frenkie de Jong, who will join the club in the summer, are also bets for the future as Barca begin to prepare for life when Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets are gone.
One player Barcelona have been scouting is De Jong’s Ajax teammate Matthijs de Ligt. The 19-year-old defender impressed as the Dutch side eliminated Real Madrid from the Champions League on Tuesday and Bartomeu says he’s a player Barca are following closely.
“We have to talk about it in March and April,” Bartomeu said when asked if Barca would try and sign De Ligt this summer.
“That is when we usually make decisions regarding planning for next season. We had to fast track De Jong’s signing because of the competition, but [De Ligt’s] name is on the table, of course.”