Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde has promoted Ousmane Dembele’s return from injury, discussing the exit of Neymar last summer in the process.
Having arrived at the Camp Nou last summer, Valverde was instantly hit with the decision of Brazilian Neymar leaving for French side Paris Saint Germain, leaving him with a rush to sign a replacement.
The former Athletic Club boss moved to sign French youngster Dembele from Borussia Dortmund, but his impact has been minimal due to an injury picked up in his full debut against Getafe in October.
Dembele’s injury saw him ruled out for months, but after returning to training – the winger is now set for his return against Levante at the weekend.
And, Valverde has promoted his return, saying he is hopeful Dembele can have a similar impact to Neymar.
“Neymar’s exit? We won’t deny that it was a difficult time for us,” he told Barca TV.
“It had been speculated for a while, and after that it was finalised. It affected our camp a lot.
“Dembele? Any Barca player is different to the others, and Dembele is a player who has the profile that we were lacking.
“His injury was an added difficulty to the situation we were facing, but we have a big squad and players who have done very well to replace him.
“Now he’s going to re-join the squad as he’s recovered from his injury. At the time, it was a tough blow to take, especially for him, because he’s a very young player and also the tension of the transfer could’ve influenced the injury.
“Still, we’ve solved [his injury] and we’re happy. We believe he’ll be back soon. His position? Taking into account where Messi and Luis [Suarez] play, we have to position ourselves based on the characteristics of these players.
“Ultimately, we know Leo can play anywhere. Our attacks go through him, and we know Dembele can play as a forward or out wide and that he has great pace. He’ll announce himself.”
Barca, who remain unbeaten in La Liga, face Celta Vigo in the Copa del Rey on Thursday, before facing Levante at the Camp Nou on Sunday afternoon.
Prior to the international break, Valverde’s side beat Real Madrid 3-0 thanks to goals from Messi, Suarez and Aleix Vidal.
A win over the Valencian based side could see them push even further ahead of title rivals Atletico Madrid and Valencia.