Paying €105m for Dembele proves desperate Barca still counting the cost of losing Neymar

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The French forward becomes the world's second-most expensive player in an outlay that could have been avoided with better planning by the Catalan club

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An opportunity missed. In April last year, Barcelona were watching Ousmane Dembele and his release clause was, reportedly at least, just €5 million. A few months later, he left Rennes to join Borussia Dortmund for €15m. Now, he has become a Barca player for a fee that could reach 10 times that amount.

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The information was revealed by L'Equipe and published by Catalan daily Sport under the headline "Barca can sign Dembele for €5m". And even though the Rennes president and the player's agent both denied the reports, the French forward did depart Ligue 1 to join BVB for just €15m last summer.

At that time, of course, Barcelona were not particularly concerned with bringing in a forward. The trident of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, described by coach Luis Enrique as the finest in football history, was still at the peak of its powers and there appeared little sign that would change.

In fact, Barca had trouble bringing in forwards in the summer of 2016 because their targets were wary of a probable lack of first-team opportunities. Kevin Gameiro and Luciano Vietto chose Atletico and Sevilla, respectively, while Nolito moved to Manchester City. Barca eventually brought in Paco Alcacer from Valencia.

Ousmane Dembele PS

But a 19-year-old Dembele would have jumped at the chance of joining Barca and, after deliberately missing training at Dortmund recently in order to force through a move, his wish has now been granted. It has come, however, at a significant price.

That was always going to happen after Paris Saint-Germain paid Neymar's €222m release clause to take the Brazil forward to the Parc des Princes earlier this month. Suddenly, the Blaugrana were left needing a replacement with less than a month left in the transfer window - and everybody knew exactly what they had to spend.

The Catalans had hoped to bring in both Dembele and Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho, but a move for the latter now looks out of the question as the Reds stand firm in their refusal to sell the Brazilian - once tipped as a potential team-mate for Neymar at Camp Nou.

Liverpool have told Barca not to bother coming back with a fresh offer for the 25-year-old and a bid in the region of €150m also now seems unlikely, with Dembele set to cost an initial €105m plus around €42m in variables that makes the 20-year-old the world's second-most expensive player.

Neymar PSG Paris Saint-Germain

Josep Maria Bartomeu Barcelona

And an outstanding player he is too, but better planning could have seen the French forward arrive for a much lower fee. Because earlier this summer, prior to Neymar's move to PSG, it was reported in Germany by Bild that the 20-year-old could be available for around €50m.

From €5m, to €15m, €50m and then €70m as the summer wore on, Barca have ended up paying what could amount to €147m for a player who is extremely talented, yet has only two years at an elite level.

Will it work out? Who knows? Dembele is, without doubt, one of most exciting prospects in world football at this point and he can cover all of the positions across the forward line, be it Neymar's role out on the left, a central striker position or a right-wing slot where he operated most often at Dortmund.

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So, it seems to be a strong signing and the switch should be met with a more positive reaction at Barca than the critical response to the €40m arrival of Paulinho. Dembele is the real deal and he does look like a good buy, even though more new players are surely needed for the Blaugrana to compete with Real Madrid this season.

However, there is plenty of pressure on the youngster's shoulders - and also on the directors at the Catalan club - following this transfer. And amid these desperate times, Dembele was also outrageously overpriced as Barca desperately sought a successor for Neymar.

Now it is down to the player to prove one of Florentino Perez's favourite sayings. "The best players," the Madrid president often says, "are not expensive at all." How the under-fire Barca board will hope they can say something similar about Dembele in a few years' time.

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