Where are they now? Barcelona’s five Neymar replacements from 2017

Quick Reads

After joining Barcelona in 2013, Neymar developed into one of the best players in the world and replacing him was always going to be a difficult task.

The Brazil international decided to join PSG in a world-record deal in 2017 and Barcelona reinvested that money in five new signings that summer.

We’ve taken a look at how those five players have fared over the last four years.

Ousmane Dembele

Dembele was signed as a like-for-like replacement for Neymar and was the most expensive of the five arrivals that summer, costing an initial £96.8million from Borussia Dortmund.

The France international was regarded as one of Europe’s brightest young talents but Dortmund were definitely the real winners from this deal. 

Injury problems have plagued his time at the Camp Nou and the 24-year-old has been largely inconsistent amid concerns about his attitude off the pitch.

He started to rediscover his best form during 2020-21 but still faces an uncertain future at the club with his contract due to expire in 2022.

Paulinho

The fact that Paulinho is the biggest success story from this list is a damning indictment of their 2017 summer transfer window. 

Eyebrows were raised when Barcelona signed the former Tottenham flop from Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande for £36million. 

Despite struggling with keepie-uppies at his unveiling, the midfielder silenced his doubters and scored nine goals in 49 appearances as Barcelona completed a league and cup double in 2017-18.

He decided to rejoin Guangzhou Evergrande after that solitary season in Spain and picked up his third Chinese Super League title in 2019. 

The 33-year-old was released from his contract by mutual consent in 2021 and joined Saudi Arabian side Al-Ahli on a free transfer.

READ: Ranking Barcelona’s 16 weirdest signings so far this millennium

Nelson Semedo

Having impressed at Benfica, Semedo joined Barcelona in a €30million deal and was initially billed as Dani Alves’ long-term successor.

The right-back made 124 appearances in all competitions during his time at the club, winning two La Liga titles and a Copa del Rey.

But he was heavily criticised for his performances in 2019-20 and had his pants pulled down by Alphonso Davies in that 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich.

Barcelona were surprisingly still able to recoup their money, selling him to Wolves for an initial £27.6million and the deal could rise to £36.6million.

The 27-year-old endured a difficult debut season as Wolves finished 13th in the Premier League but will be hoping to kick on under Bruno Lage. 

“To be honest, it was a normal season, not a good season for me personally,” he told the club’s official website in April 2021. “I know I can do much more, it was my first year in the Premier League, I went from a different club and it was not easy, but I will keep working to try to improve and help my team.”

Gerard Deulofeu

We still can’t really work Deulofeu out. The La Masia academy graduate had loan spells at Everton and Sevilla before joining the former on a permanent deal in 2015. 

Barcelona decided to trigger the option to re-sign him in 2017, only to hand the winger just 10 La Liga appearances during his second spell at the Nou Camp. 

After Philippe Coutinho joined the club in January 2018, he was deemed surplus to requirements and returned to the Premier League with Watford.

The Spain international went on to become a fan-favourite at Vicarage Road but joined Serie A side Udinese following Watford’s relegation to the Championship in 2020. 

Marlon Santos

Marlon initially joined Barcelona on a one-year loan from Fluminense in 2016, making three senior appearances but mainly featuring for their B team. 

The centre-back impressed enough to earn a permanent switch worth €5million, only to then be sent to Nice for the 2017-18 campaign.

He was sold to Sassuolo for €6million in 2018 and made 66 appearances for the Serie A side before joining Shakhtar Donetsk three years later. 

“My stage in Barcelona was wonderful,” Marlon told Sport in April 2021. “I only have good memories. I arrived at a very young age and the club bet strongly on me. At Barca B I was taught a lot, as well as when I climbed to the first team of Luis Enrique.”


More Barcelona

Comparing the team on Lionel Messi’s first and last Barcelona appearance

The story of Henrik Larsson’s glorious late-career spell at Barcelona

Can you name Barcelona’s XI from their 2-0 win away at Real Madrid in 2011?

Outscoring Messi & winning it all: A tribute to Thierry Henry at Barcelona