Ousmane Dembele has the potential to be as good as Neymar and could be a future Ballon d’Or winner, says ex-England and Bayern Munich player Owen Hargreaves.
Dembele is set to join Barcelona for a fee that could rise to £135.5m from German club Borussia Dortmund
The fee is second only in value to the £200m Barca received for Neymar from Paris St-Germain earlier this month.
Speaking about Dembele, Hargreaves told BBC Radio 5 live: “He is the best 20-year-old player in the world.”
The former Manchester United midfielder added: “He has been under the radar but for anyone who has seen his body of work in France and the Bundesliga last season, he is breathtaking to watch.
– He is going to be a nightmare to play against
“Physically he is so powerful and can play equally with both feet. He takes set-pieces with both feet.
“He can play to the right, to the left and as number 10. The figure is obviously high for a young player but if you see him play he will take you breath away. He is a potential Ballon d’or winner.
“I don’t think he will play off the left [as Neymar did for Barcelona]. I think he may play on the right and Lionel Messi could be central.
“He won’t be a direct replacement for Neymar but he has the potential to be as good.
“Neymar is in another category at the moment and will take over from Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo [as the best player in the world].”
He added: “If you had to make a winger, this is the kid who defenders wouldn’t want to play against. He is big but he is going to grow into his body. He is going to be a nightmare to play against.
“He has the potential to be the best, no question.”
‘We expect a lot from him’
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde believes his side will benefit from Dembele’s ability and attacking versatility.
“He’s a player who guarantees an attacking threat, which is something we had lost and we badly need,” Valverde told a news conference ahead of Barca’s game at Alaves on Saturday.
“He can play on either wing or through the middle, he gets forward a lot and is very technical. We expect a lot from him and we’re very excited about him.”
Barca will pay an initial 105m euros (£96.8m) for the France international, 20, who has agreed a five-year contract and will undergo a medical on Monday.
Barca revealed that his deal will contain a release clause of 400m euros.
Dembele has not featured for Dortmund since the German Super Cup on 5 August. The German side rejected a bid from Barca for the forward earlier in August, with the player then suspended for missing training.