Ousmane Dembele and Eden Hazard head the list of direct Barcelona replacements for Neymar

Andy West 4/08/2017
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Neymar has completed his box office €222million move to Paris Saint-Germain and it means Barcelona are left with money to burn.

We look at the five signings boss Ernesto Valverde could make to replace Neymar.

OUSMANE DEMBELE

Although he is perhaps the least celebrated of Neymar’s potential replacements, the 20-year-old Borussia Dortmund star may well be the best long-term option.

Dembele’s ability to beat defenders with either pace or trickery allow him to add dangerous penetration to any attack, and the prospect of him racing onto Lionel Messi through balls is extremely enticing.

But Dembele is also raw and inexperienced, having played just two years at senior level, and it is unrealistic to expect him to immediately start playing 50 games per campaign for Barca – especially as he’d have to switch positions from the right flank to the left.

If they are prepared to nurture his undoubted talent, however, the Catalan side could land themselves with an unpolished gem – and the kind of player new boss Ernesto Valverde has succeeded in developing well in the past.

And although Dortmund would be reluctant to lose a player they only signed a year ago, they would not be able to withstand a serious offer from Barca if the Camp Nou club pursue him vigorously.

ANTOINE GRIEZMANN

With the greatest respect to Atletico Madrid, there has always been a sense that Griezmann is too good a player to stay with his current club for too much longer.

Indeed, Griezmann came extremely close to joining Manchester United earlier this summer before the move was scotched by Atletico’s transfer ban from FIFA being upheld.

Griezmann declined the opportunity to join United because he didn’t want to leave Atletico at a time when they’d be unable to sign a replacement, and there’s little reason to think he’d backtrack on that decision so quickly.

So, however perfect Griezmann might be for Barca considering his age, experience, versatile skill set and familiarity with La Liga, it almost certainly won’t happen.

Antoine Griezmann

PAULO DYBALA

The Juventus star has been long linked with Camp Nou, with stories of their supposed interest predictably intensifying after he scored two brilliant goals to mastermind Juve’s Champions League quarter-final victory over Barca in the spring.

There’s little doubt that Barca have closely tracked the progress of the 23-year-old for several months, and a move this summer would be no surprise.

However, for all the abilities possessed by Dybala, playing on the left flank is not one – or not one that we’ve seen so far.

He is, therefore, more likely to be a player Barca sign in addition to a Neymar replacement, rather than being the man they seek to fill the new vacancy on the left wing.

Considering their similar styles, there must also be a question mark over how Dybala and Lionel Messi can function together in the same team, something which has rarely looked like working well at international level.

Paulo Dybala

KYLIAN MBAPPE

Without doubt the biggest breakthrough talent in world football last season was the Monaco starlet, so it’s inevitable that Barca are reportedly ready to splurge a large chunk of their new transfer coffers on him.

Furthermore, although he’s more commonly been fielded as a central striker, Mbappe’s movement and mobility should allow him to adapt pretty easily to the left-sided role in a front three.

But there’s a big problem in this potential move, and it’s called Real Madrid.

Barca’s eternal rivals – and specifically the forward’s compatriot manager Zinedine Zidane – have been tracking Mbappe for years, and Los Blancos are surely well ahead in the race for his signature.

Madrid would not have sold Alvaro Morata if they didn’t believe that Mbappe was within reach, and losing out to Barcelona for his services seems almost implausible.

EDEN HAZARD

Over the last few years, alongside Neymar the best left-sided attackers in world football has probably been Chelsea’s electric but occasionally enigmatic Belgian.

And in terms of a like for like replacement who could immediately step in and fill the same role, he’s probably the best option Barca could hope for.

Hazard has also been regularly linked with a move to Spain – albeit to Real Madrid, not Barcelona – and his relationship with Antonio Conte has not always been plain sailing.

Chelsea will be reluctant to sell and the London club’s financial might puts them in a position of strength but, as we’ve seen with Neymar, players now possess an immense amount of power.

So if Barca are prepared to break the bank, landing Hazard is a distinct possibility.

Eden Hazard

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duFC High Performance Centre starlets head to Spain to take on the best of La Liga

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The finest football talents in the UAE touched down in Malaga Wednesday seeking to make an impact against some of the best LaLiga academies around.

The du LaLiga High Performance Centre is a ground-breaking project that has seen Spain’s top tier set up a base in the Emirates to help the finest youngsters in the country achieve their potential with year-round training.

And months of hard work will be put to the test over the next 18 days, as the centre’s Under-18 and Under-16 squads – which were whittled down from 7,000 hopefuls earlier in the year – aim to catch the eye of Spanish scouts.

Several players have received interest from La Liga academies already and HPC head coach Rafa Gil has backed his charges to flourish under the spotlight.

“The annual du LaLiga HPC trip to Spain is an amazing opportunity for our athletes to showcase their talents and be discovered by La Liga scouts,” said Gil, who has coached Malaga CF.

“We have worked intensively with our team over the past year and believe our U18 and U16 teams are developed to a stage where they will attract the attention of Spanish clubs. We are confident that we have amazing talents whom we have discovered in the UAE and this is their time to shine and flourish.”

Sport360° will be covering the first week of the trip, and below are just some of the young hopefuls to keep an eye out for…

Mohammed Rajeh Al Qasem

Nationality: Jordanian
Position: Striker
Age: 17

Rajeh Qasem (Read-Only)

Mohammed Rajeh Al Qasem has been a poster child of what the UAE Streets Cup stands for. Having discovered his love of football at the age of five, he joined the duFC platform as part of the Streets Cup team ‘El Classico’, who were a team with no prior formal training.

This talent took them to the finals where they won and became 2015/16 champions. During the course of the tournament Rajeh was selected by LaLiga scouts and made it through to join the du LaLiga HPC.

The coaching has seen him go from strength to strength, moulding his natural talent into a formidable striker with a strong promise of going all the way.

Mohammad Bouherrafa

Nationality: French
Position: Midfield
Age: 17

Mohammad Bouherrafa has been a stand out player since he was first scouted by Gil in Season 1 of the duFC.

He has stood out for his well-roundedness on the pitch and ability to hold a team together with constant communication; maintain focus when they are winning and raising morale when the team concedes a goal.

He is a natural-born leader and stepped into the role of team captain with ease and with full support of the team. He has an innate ability to motivate the team and direct the play on the pitch.

Mahan Javaheri

Nationality: Iranian
Position: Goalkeeper
Age: 17

Mahan Javaheri is a long-standing success story of the UAE Schools Cup, making his debut in 2013/2014 as the goalkeeper of the International School of Choueifat Dubai,
and then in 2015/2016 when the scouting arm of the tournament was installed.

His team clinched victory that year and he was promptly drafted into du LaLiga HPC.

His skills have since blossomed and he has become a symbol of determination and commitment for the whole team.

His life is about football and his relentless drive makes him a force to be reckoned with in the goal.

Ahmad Salam

Nationality: Jordanian
Position: Winger
Age: 17

Ahmad Salam joined the HPC after his team (EFF) made a dominant first appearance in the duFC’s first season.

He immediately caught the eyes of the La Liga scouts for his ability to judge the movements of his team-mates, receive the ball and power ahead of the opponents to both set up and score goals, making him a vital player.

Like many other players in the squad, Salam is excelling in his studies – but extraordinarily he is also a year ahead of his peers at school, whilst travelling from Abu Dhabi four times per week to train at the du LaLiga HPC in Dubai.

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Jurgen Klopp issues stern hands off warning to Barcelona over Philippe Coutinho

Carl Markham 31/07/2017
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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has reiterated his stance Barcelona target Philippe Coutinho is not for sale.

Earlier this month the club rejected a £72million bid for the Brazil international but that does not appear to have deterred the LaLiga club, with speculation growing they will return with an improved offer.

With reports suggesting it is increasingly likely Coutinho’s compatriot Neymar is set to join Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona will have a hole to fill, and having identified the Reds playmaker as the ideal replacement another bid cannot be ruled out.

Klopp’s position remains unchanged, however, and he made his views clear at a press conference ahead of Tuesday’s Audi Cup match against Bayern Munich in Germany.

“If you say he is not available to be sold, where is the interpretation?” said Klopp.

“The word ‘not’ means there is no interpretation. There is nothing new.”

While Coutinho is set to feature against the Bundesliga champions, defender Joe Gomez and striker Divock Origi have been ruled out of both matches at the Audi Cup.

Origi was withdrawn from the starting line-up for Saturday’s friendly against Hertha Berlin after reporting a tight hamstring while Gomez, who played in the 3-0 win, has a minor knee problem.

“Divock won’t be available for the two Audi Cup games. He has picked up a very slight muscle injury,” Klopp told liverpoolfc.com.

“We are being cautious with this but it makes sense. He will be monitored over the next few days but we are not overly concerned.”

On Gomez, Klopp added: “He will be missing from the next few games.

“It is nothing too serious, a little issue with his knee picked up in the game but we will take no risk with him.”

Klopp also does not want to risk striker Danny Ings, who is still working his way back to full fitness after a knee operation in October.

Right-back Nathaniel Clyne and third-choice goalkeeper Danny Ward are both sidelined with back injuries but keeper Loris Karius, centre-back Dejan Lovren and Klopp’s stand-in left-back last season James Milner are all available after minor niggles.

Provided by Press Association Sport

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