Why Ousmane Dembele could be the best replacement for Neymar

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The Borussia Dortmund winger is close to the Brazilian's output in terms of assists and could slot into the vacant position on the left at Camp Nou


STATS

Barcelona identified two targets to replace Neymar. The Catalan club wanted to bring in Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho and Borussia Dortmund's Ousmane Dembele before the close of the transfer window on August 31, after being left reeling by Paris Saint-Germain's decision to meet Neymar's €222 million buy-out clause.

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Neither club wanted to sell but while Liverpool have stood firm and rejected three separate bids for Coutinho, BVB eventually decided to deal after Barca agreed to pay them a staggering €105m (plus a potential €42m in bonuses) for Dembele, a 20-year-old attacker with just two full seasons of professional football under his belt

The fee is ludicrous but the statistics show that Dembele could well prove the best possible replacement for Neymar.

Dembele is right-footed and although he plays mainly on the right for Dortmund, Barca like to operate with inverted wingers who can cut inside and shoot. That means he could slot in on the left at Camp Nou in the position recently vacated by Neymar.

Dembele expected goals graphic

Opta's expected assist (xA) model measures how likely it is that a completed pass becomes an assist based on factors such as pass type, distance to goal before and after the pass, and pass length. This assigns an xA value that reflects how likely a pass will lead to a goal. And it shows that Dembele (with a mark of 10.73) is only just behind Neymar (11.53), while his number is the fifth best in all of Europe's top five leagues.

Opta's expected goals (xG) model measures how likely a particular shot is to be scored based on distance to the goal, angle to the goal, assist type, whether or not it was headed and a variety of other factors. This assigns an xG value that reflects how likely the shot is to be scored.

Neymar Barcelona Real Madrid ICC

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Dembele's xG mark is much lower (5.73) than Neymar's (12.42). However, the French winger is still young and should be able to improve that side of his game as he continues to develop.

At Barcelona, he will also be likely to have more goalscoring opportunities, while he will be able to shoot with his favoured foot if he starts on the left and he would be playing alongside two forwards - Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez - who have netted 96 and 95 goals, respectively, over the past two seasons.

So, even though Barca have made Dembele - who joined BVB from Rennes last year for €15m - the second most expensive player in history, his xA stats show he may be the best replacement for Neymar.

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