Dybala, Coutinho, Dembele - who could replace Neymar at Barcelona?

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It was a deal that seemed almost unthinkable barely a month ago, but it is happening: Neymar is poised to join Paris Saint-Germain for a scarcely conceivable world-record fee of EUR222million.

The departure of the 25-year-old is a huge slap in the face to Barca from a pride perspective, but more pressing now is the need to find a way to replace one third of their formidable 'MSN' strike force.

Of course, a windfall of nearly a quarter of a billion euros should provide ample funds for Barca's hierarchy to go shopping, and several names have already been suggested.

But where should Barca go looking for their new Neymar? We examine the leading candidates to fill the boots of the world's most expensive player...

 

SERGIO AGUERO (MANCHESTER CITY)

Although few people outside Pep Guardiola's coaching staff can quite understand why, it looks as though Aguero is surplus to requirements at Manchester City.

The striker scored 33 times in all competitions last season but failed to convince his manager he can adapt to his style, and he only won his place back in the team from Gabriel Jesus when the Brazilian suffered a broken foot.

Guardiola and City have stated publicly they do not want to sell, but a sizeable bid from Barca will likely make them reconsider, especially given City's recent spending. Lionel Messi would love one of his best friends at the club, too.

It would require a slight reshuffle of Barca's attack to accommodate Aguero and Luis Suarez, but Valverde has set up with two strikers in the past.

 

PHILIPPE COUTINHO (LIVERPOOL)

It's a rumour that simply will not go away, however much Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp tells anyone who will listen that Coutinho will not be sold.

The player himself has stated he is in no rush to quit Anfield and Neymar's departure could, ironically, make matters more difficult, with Barca having reportedly hoped to use the Brazil duo's friendship as a bargaining chip.

Nevertheless, the lure of LaLiga's big guns is always strong for South American stars and an offer approaching the nine-figure mark might convince Liverpool to cash in.

There is no doubt that Coutinho would make a shrewd, if expensive, investment. He would have no problem slotting into the 4-3-3 set-up and would bring the kind of excitement on the ball that made Neymar such a Camp Nou favourite.

GERARD DEULOFEU (BARCELONA)

Of course, Valverde may decide he need look no further than the Barca dressing-room for the next Neymar.

Deulofeu was signed back from Everton for a comparatively miserly EUR12m, and there can be no doubt the Spain international has the wherewithal and the academy coaching to slot into the first team straight away.

However, although he would make a cheap and convenient choice, Barca fans would not be too impressed to see Deulofeu handed the Neymar mantle. He has never quite kicked on to become the player he was tipped to be at La Masia and there is a sense that he was only ever signed to play a back-up role.

 

ANGEL DI MARIA (PSG)

Having struggled in the first half of last season under Unai Emery, Di Maria began to recapture something like his best form to help PSG claim a domestic cup double last season.

Despite that, the Argentine has found himself linked with a move away, with Inter touted as the most likely destination, but Neymar's departure could prompt Barca into making a move.

It would certainly be a gamble; Di Maria has never quite hit the heights he managed at Real Madrid during spells with PSG and Manchester United and his past connection to Barca's great rivals would cause some hesitation over a deal.

But if Barca can use Neymar to negotiate a reduced price for the 29-year-old, it could be a risk worth taking.

 

OUSMANE DEMBELE (BORUSSIA DORTMUND)

A sparkling talent who lit up the Bundesliga in his first season in Germany, Dembele has regularly been linked with a move to Barca in the last few months.

The 20-year-old would only cost a small amount of the EUR222m at Barca's disposal and a season spent in a hugely attack-minded set-up suggests he would have few problems adapting to life in LaLiga.

Dortmund have declared their transfer window is "closed", but it's difficult to see Barca not trying to test their resolve with a talent such as Dembele at stake.

PAULO DYBALA (JUVENTUS)

The favoured choice of Messi (according to reports), Dybala was tipped to make a future move to Barca long before the Neymar saga kicked into gear.

The Argentina international scored twice against the Catalans in Juventus' Champions League quarter-final win last term and his development into a world-leading player has continued at a pace.

It would take a massive offer to persuade Juve to sell, but Dybala could force their hand if he makes it clear Camp Nou is where he wants to play. His versatility would also allow him to slot into the Neymar role or adjust to a front-line reshuffle with few difficulties.

 

KYLIAN MBAPPE (MONACO)

It seems odd that Barca have been strangely quiet amid the never-ending speculation surrounding Mbappe's future.

The Monaco sensation has been linked with practically every club in Europe who boast deep pockets and the rumours have even caused Monaco to threaten to get FIFA involved amid accusations of tapping-up.

Being on the fringes of the Mbappe reports could work to Barca's advantage. Approaching Monaco directly, rather than attempting to speak to the player and his entourage first, could be a key way to encourage the French champions to sell this year.

Mbappe could well cost north of EUR100m, but it would be an investment worth making for an 18-year-old who can play anywhere across the front line to devastating effect.

RAFINHA (BARCELONA)

Another home-grown option who would certainly save Barca some cash, Rafinha has undoubtedly been patient enough when it comes to first-team opportunities.

The 24-year-old has been a back-up for much of the past three seasons but he has impressed on the relatively few chances he has been given in the starting line-up, both in central midfield and a wide forward role.

Again, fans might feel let down at the prospect of watching Neymar go without a marquee replacement, but they would soon forgive Valverde if he were able to coax a stellar season out of one of their academy stars.

 

ALEXIS SANCHEZ (ARSENAL)

There is no doubt Alexis Sanchez has become a better player since leaving Barcelona three years ago, and a return now would make sense for all concerned.

The Chile star would get the Champions League football he craves and be able to slot into the team without much fuss, while the rest of the squad would likely welcome a man who was a popular figure in the dressing room before he left for Arsenal.

Arsene Wenger has made it clear they do not want to sell, but the prospect of letting Sanchez join a team abroad instead of a Premier League rival will have a certain appeal. What's more, with his contract expiring in a year, the Gunners need to cash in now or risk losing him for nothing in 2018.

BARCELONA B

If the market proves unforgiving and Valverde sees no solution in the first-team squad, the time might be right to dip into the B team and find the next young talent ready to make the breakthrough.

Barca have already lost a gem in Jordi Mboula to Monaco, but there are others in Gerard Lopez's squad who could be worth a gamble.

Striker Anthony Lozano is 24 and desperate to break into the first team sooner rather than later, while Moha Ezzerfani is a flamboyant 19-year-old who boasts the skillset to play down either flank in the attack.

There is also Palmeiras loanee Vitinho, a midfielder who can also operate on the wing and named Neymar as his idol upon signing for the club.