Paris Saint-Germain came in and stole the Brazilian away from Barcelona by triggering his €222m release clause, and the blaugrana re-invested the windfall in four new players: Ousmane Dembele, Antoine Griezmann, Frenkie de Jong and Philippe Coutinho. Ronald Koeman has a plan to make the most of them.
The four have performed to a good level since joining the club, but never hitting the heights for which they were purchased. Due to the departure of the likes of Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic, Arthur and Arturo Vidal, however, Koeman has the space to develop three of them, giving them the prominence they need to flourish.
With Griezmann, Koeman has been clear from day one that the Frenchman needs to become a key part of the team, and he has. The trust and responsibility Koeman has placed in him has resulted in the month of January, when Griezmann scored six goals and contributed six assists. His best version has arrived.
De Jong was considered a safe bet when he signed, given he naturally fit Barcelona, but his adaptation wasn’t straightforward. He struggled initially, but under Koeman he’s learned to evolve his game and play with more industry and adventure as an eight. The Dutchman has scored five goals in 2021.
Dembele was the first response to Neymar’s departure, signed as a direct replacement. Since joining, however, the Frenchman has been afflicted by injury after injury, and that rhythm continued unbound even after Koeman joined. But now he’s in the best moment of his Barcelona career, playing eleven on the bounce and showing his best self on the pitch.