Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has claimed that Ousmane Dembele is 'better' than former Camp Nou star Neymar, with the French winger replacing the latter when he completed a €222m world record move to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017.
Dembele, who inherited Neymar's number 11 shirt, was bought for a fee potentially rising to €145m. Although injuries ravaged his first season and concerns over his professionalism and poor timekeeping were raised earlier this season, Barça insist they have the right man.
Speaking on Spanish radio, Bartomeu dodged a question about re-signing Neymar, instead praising Dembele and fellow big money signing Philippe Coutinho.
"I won't say yes or no," he is quoted as saying by Sport.
"I say that with their money, Barca made a sporting bet. With that money we went for players like Dembele and Coutinho. Dembele is better than Neymar. He's at Barça and he is better."
Dembele, a World Cup winner with France last summer, has mostly been a regular starter for Barça this season. He's only missed three La Liga games and has been named in Ernesto Valverde's starting XI on 15 occasions. He's also started five of seven Champions League games.
In terms of goals, only established superstars Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez have scored more goals for Barça so far this season than Dembele's tally of 13 in all competitions. The 21-year-old has also registered eight assists in total, behind only Messi and Jordi Alba.
Barça will hope that Dembele helps make the difference against Lyon in the Champions League at Camp Nou next week after the Catalans were held 0-0 in the first leg. First, though, the club must consolidate its strong position atop La Liga by beating Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.