Football

Barca new boy Dembele: I'm no Neymar

French wonderkid Ousmane Dembele shrugged off comparisons with Neymar and insisted he still has much to learn, despite becoming the second most expensive player in history as he was presented by Barcelona yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The 20-year-old's 105-million-euro (S$170m) transfer from Borussia Dortmund could rise to 145m euros with add-ons depending on his performance, as Barca splashed out to fill the gap left by Neymar's world record 222m-euro move to Paris Saint-Germain.

"I'm not here to replace Neymar," said the Frenchman. "I will try to make good progress.

"I am only 20 years old and have a lot to learn. That's why I came to this big club."

Dembele will form a fearsome forward line alongside five-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, as Barca aim to wrestle the Champions League and La Liga titles back from rivals Real Madrid.

The latest recruit hopes to learn from Messi, whom he describes as the best player in history.

"It's an honour to be a part of Lionel Messi's team," added Dembele.

"He's a great player, the best player in the world, the best footballer in history and I am very happy to play in his team.

"I will learn, watch how he plays, and how he is on and off the field."

Dembele's Barca career got off to an inauspicious start as his presentation in front of 18,000 waiting fans at the Nou Camp was delayed for nearly two hours due to a paperwork issue in releasing his registration from Dortmund.

With the supporters' patience tested, there were whistles during the delay and chants for Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu to resign.

Barca's board has been under huge pressure due to the club's fading fortunes on the field and being caught cold by Neymar's decision to leave.

The attendance was also well down on the 50,000 fans that welcomed Neymar on his presentation four years ago.

"With a player like Ousmane, we have a competitive team that can aim, like every year, for the greatest success," said Bartomeu.

Dembele finally emerged in Barca's famous red and blue strip, sporting the No. 11 jersey vacated by Neymar.

However, he will have to wait until at least Sept 9 for his debut, when Barca host Espanyol in a Catalan Derby.

Dembele announced himself as one of Europe's top prospects with a stellar season at Dortmund, scoring 10 goals, after joining from Rennes for just 15m euros a year ago.

He is Barca's fifth signing of the summer after Marlon Santos, Gerard Deulofeu, Nelson Semedo and Paulinho.

The Catalan giants intend to complete at least one more deal before the transfer window closes on Thursday, with Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho at the top of their wish list.

"My intention is that another player will come, if possible two," said Barca sporting director Robert Fernandez. - AFP

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