Ousmane Dembele signs Barcelona contract after club-record deal
BARCELONA -- Ousmane Dembele has become the most expensive player in Barcelona's history after signing a five-year deal with the Catalan club on Monday.
Some 17,814 fans gathered at the Camp Nou on Monday to catch a glimpse of the player, who inherits Neymar's No. 11 shirt and arrives to fill the void left by the Brazilian's move to Paris Saint-Germain.
Barca announced on Friday that they had reached an agreement with Borussia Dortmund to sign the France international for an initial fee worth €105 million.
That could rise to €145m with add-ons, which would nearly double the club's previous club-record transfer, the €80m paid to Liverpool for Luis Suarez in 2014.
Dembele, 20, arrived in Barcelona on Sunday and underwent a medical on Monday before eventually signing his contract alongside president Josep Maria Bartomeu almost two hours later than planned after a bureaucratic hold-up.
"I'm really pleased to form part of the Barca family," Dembele said after signing his contract. "I have always wanted to play for Barca since I was a kid. I watched all their matches.
"I'm really happy to now be part of the best club in the world with the best players in the world. I hope to win lots of trophies and titles here. I'm hoping for a good, successful year and looking forward to playing here in this stadium.
"Visca Barca, visca Catalunya."
Dembele rejected comparisons to Neymar, saying: "There's a big difference between Neymar and me. I've been a professional for two years. Neymar is one of the best in the world. I am young and I'm trying to grow each day.
"I've not come to be Neymar's replacement. Barca called me to occupy a position, and I have come to give my all in that position."
Dembele also sad he wanted to learn from Lionel Messi, adding: He is a fantastic player, the best in history. It will be an honor to play in his team. I want to see how he plays, I want to see what he does on the field and off the field. I'm here to learn."
As for his transfer fee, currently the second-highest ever after Neymar's €222m move, Demebele said: "It's not a pressure. The market has changed. What is important is that I do my job on the field. I'm not going to be affected by the amount of the transfer."
Dembele is a player Barcelona have been following for several years. They wanted to sign him last summer when he left Rennes for just €15m, but he opted to move to Dortmund instead, where he felt he would have more opportunities to play regular football.
Barca followed up their interest with the Bundesliga club earlier this summer, but it was only following Neymar's exit that they stepped up their efforts to push a deal through.
After having an initial bid rejected, reported to be in the region of €100m, Dembele left Dortmund training without leave and was subsequently suspended by the German club, paving the way for an agreement to be reached last week.
Dembele becomes Barca's fifth signing of the summer, along with the arrivals of Marlon Santos, Gerard Deulofeu, Nelson Semedo and Paulinho.
Ernesto Valverde has suggested he will not be the last, with the Barca coach saying on Saturday he hopes to have "an even better team" when the transfer window closes, while sporting director Robert Fernandez said on Monday that he was aiming for two more signings this week.
Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho remains a target, and Barca hope the Premier League side will accept a fourth bid for the midfielder after having seen three offers turned down so far.
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.