Monday 18 December 2017

Barcelona draw up shortlist to replace Neymar - and they want Liverpool star Coutinho as well

Paulo Dybala (left), Ousmane Dembele (centre) and Philippe Coutinho (right).
Paulo Dybala (left), Ousmane Dembele (centre) and Philippe Coutinho (right).

Miguel Delaney

Barcelona are looking at Borussia Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele and Juventus’ Paulo Dybala as potential replacements for Paris Saint-Germain-bound Neymar.

Senior Camp Nou officials and players are growing increasingly irritated by the stance taken by the Brazilian's entourage, and turning to the idea that it would not be so damaging to let him go.

High-level Barcelona sources have told The Independent that there has been a distinctive shift in the mood at the club over the past few days, with those at the top now getting fed up with what is seen as little more than greed from the 25-year-old’s entourage.

As one figure close to the situation said, the question now is “what is his problem with Barca?”

While figures like Neymar’s prospective PSG teammate Dani Alves have made justifiable complaints about how they have been treated by the Camp Nou board in the past, there is still a feeling that they have generally bent over backwards for Neymar, and that this entire episode remains about finance rather than any actual sporting desire to go to Paris.

It has got to the point where some of the forward’s more senior teammates have become aggravated by the situation, and would currently see no great harm in him leaving, something that was very much not the case just two weeks.

Barca have therefore turned to alternatives in the event Neymar does leave for what would likely be a £163m deal, given that is his buy-out.

They have already started the process of trying to prise Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool, but he is not seen as a direct replacement for Neymar as they would then have the money to buy another elite striker.

Dybala has a close relationship with Lionel Messi, who he texts and plays computer games with regularly, but 20-year-old Dembele is currently seen as much easier to purchase, and likely cheaper at around £70m.

(© Independent News Service)

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