By Tim Stannard
The French forward's late winner against Valladolid gives Barcelona the whiff of LaLiga champions elect
When asking the question of whether Ousmane Dembele is the new Neymar, the immediate answer is - 'he was supposed to be'.
This was certainly the idea when the promising French forward was snapped up from Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2017 for the enormous sum of $125 million. The Dembele purchase for the then 20-year-old certainly had the whiff of a panic buy - mainly because it was a panic buy - coming soon after Neymar's damaging departure to PSG.
That New Neymar Plan A quickly fizzled out in a blizzard of injuries and Philippe Coutinho became the New Neymar for $145 million (spending the rest of the Neymar money). But then that plan B failed and Antoine Griezmann took over the mantel of New Neymar. The jury's still out on that move but it's close to a verdict that may not be good for Griezzy.
Barcelona were on Plan F on Monday with Pedri taking up the Neymar slack as Lionel Messi's sidekick. But it might be back to Plan A as Dembele's winning goal was the culmination of a campaign when the footballer has a) been less injured than before, and b) scored 10 goals in all competitions this season.
Basking in the warm glow of a result that ticks the box of "how championships are won" - play like garbage but still come out on top - the winning strike against Real Valladolid has Ronald Koeman very much in the Frenchman's camp despite rumors of a summer move to Serie A with just one year left on his contract.
"I would like Dembele to stay, he is an important player for us," said the relieved Dutch coach whose Barcelona team have now closed the gap on Atletico Madrid at top of the standings to just the single point.
With yet more rumors of Neymar still angling to be the New Neymar at Barcelona, Dembele looks like he is ready to take on the role he was bought for. Better late than never.
El Clasico is just around the corner on Saturday, April 10 with coverage getting underway on beIN SPORTS at 2PM ET / 11AM PT.
No Sergio Ramos, no Liverpool revenge against Real Madrid
Liverpool are in Madrid today on a revenge mission!
"We are not on a revenge tour here. I don't believe too much in revenge," smiled Jurgen Klopp on Monday, destroying narrative number one in this match...but only a little bit. "But it would be nice to get it though," add the Liverpool coach.
The revenge being spoken about goes back to the heady days of 2018 before the dark timeline kicked in, when ABBA was the biggest band on earth and electric vehicles were the subjects of science fiction. The incident in question is the - ahem - manhandling / wrestling move of Sergio Ramos on Mohamed Salah that put the then hottest striker in the world out of the Champions League final, which Real Madrid eventually won.
"I said after that game that if somebody asked me a week later or a month later if I would invite Sergio Ramos to my 60th birthday, then I would say no. I would think about it again," admitted Klopp.
Well, Ramos certainly has the time for a party as potentially the biggest protagonist of the game is on the sidelines for both today's Champions League quarterfinal first leg and also El Clasico - Saturday April, 10 from 2PM ET / 11AM PT.
It's an absence due to injury which has some wondering if Ramos has already played his last match for Real Madrid, due to stalled talks over the renewal of the player's expiring contract, which are certainly not being helped by his current injury.
Breaking News alert! Klopp cannot fixate his non-revenge mission on Raphael Varane with Real Madrid announcing that the player has tested positive for COVID to see the Frenchman set to miss both today's Liverpool game and El Clasico.
"Neymar lacks respect" says Tiago Djalo
Mauricio Pochettino will be popping up on Tuesday to talk about PSG's upcoming Champions League clash against Bayern Munich. And Neymar is set to be a hot topic due to the fallout of the footballer's late sending off and tunnel bust up with Lille's Tiago Djalo, who also saw red in PSG's defeat to their title rivals.
The Portuguese defender has certainly had his say telling A Bola that "we should respect each other, we are colleagues and what is lacking from Neymar is a bit of respect."
While Lille are the number one team currently challenging PSG for their league title, candidate number two are in action today on beIN SPORTS in the Coupe de France in a one-off last 16 clash. That team is the mighty Monaco who are taking on Metz in a satisfying M&M battle live on beIN SPORTS from 12:30PM ET.
The match is jammed in the middle of nearly 14 hours of live sports action across the beIN SPORTS network in the Turkish Super Lig, Coupe de France, Copa Sudamericana, Copa Libertadores and FIBA Champions League basketball playoffs.