Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu thinks the club's winger Ousmane Dembele has developed into a better player than their former star, Neymar.
Neymar left Barcelona in the summer of 2017, joining Paris Saint-Germain for a world-record fee. After losing the Brazilian, the Blaugrana signed Dembele from Borussia Dortmund and following a challenging first season at the club, in 2018-19 the France international has established himself as a regular in the first team.
Speaking to TVE (h/t Robert Summerscales of the MailOnline), Bartomeu said he thinks Dembele has surpassed the former incumbent of the Barcelona No. 11 jersey and has backed last season's other major signing, Philippe Coutinho, to kick on too:
"I explained that we have a project with Dembele and Coutinho with Neymar's money. Dembele's level is better now than Neymar's. He's a much better player than Neymar and he's already adapted.
"Coutinho is a great player, excellent. He's getting better and better. It's not easy to play at Barca—he was here six months last season and he's complete now. He has the confidence of the coach. He's a global player, and we expect a lot from him. He will continue at Barca. He's different and Barca needs different players."
While Dembele has shone when on the field this season, Coutinho has struggled for consistency, and there has been some speculation regarding his long-term future with the Catalan club.
For Bartomeu to claim Dembele is a better player than Neymar is bold, especially given how much success the Brazilian enjoyed during his time at Barcelona.
Alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, Neymar formed a devastating attacking trio, helping Barcelona win the UEFA Champions League, two La Liga titles and the Copa del Rey. BT Sport reflected on how effective they were following the Brazilian's move to PSG:
Dembele has the potential to become one of the most devastating wide forwards in football, but he's not yet scaled the same heights as Neymar.
The 21-year-old is thrilling on the ball, as he's capable of attacking defenders on both sides with his skill and speed. There have been signs of improvement in his productivity this term too, as he's grabbed eight goals and four assists in La Liga.
Overall, Dembele has contributed frequently in the final third in his Barcelona career:
In his time at Barcelona the youngster has suffered with injuries, and he returned from another recent layoff on Saturday, starting the 0-0 draw with Huesca. According Jordi Gil of Sport, Dembele will be in the starting XI for the clash with Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.
It's in these types of games, as well as potential semi-finals and finals, where Dembele will need to perform to his best if he's to be considered alongside Neymar as one of the game's elite operators.