Jorge Jesus feels Barcelona made a mistake allowing Neymar to leave, and insists replacement Ousmane Dembele is “not the same” as the brilliant Brazilian.
Speaking ahead of his side’s Champions League clash with the Spanish giants, the Sporting CP coach made clear how highly he rates the departed Neymar, who joined Paris Saint-Germain for a world-record fee of €222million.
Barca used some of the money to sign Dembele from Borussia Dortmund, only for the Frenchman to pick up a hamstring injury just 25 minutes into his first LaLiga start.
While Jesus admires the talents of Dembele, he’s happy to be going up against a side who can no longer send out the famed ‘MSN’ strike force to terrorise opposing teams.
“Look, Neymar is one of the greats. I am one of the few who believe that he’s one of the best in the world,” he told Marca.
“Dembele is not the same. He is a good player, but he is not a creator. You never allow a guy like Neymar to leave and Barcelona are less strong without him.
“Luis Suarez, Messi and Neymar are players who don’t give their opponents any chances. Without the Brazilian, we have one less problem, but there is also Andres Iniesta and the others.
“Surely we will enjoy a good performance against them.”
Both Sporting and Barcelona won their opening fixtures in Group D, with the former holding off an Olympiacos fightback in Greece to triumph 3-2.
With back-to-back games against Juventus to follow, Jesus is determined to make sure his team remain unbeaten in the competition.
“Yes, we have a lot of responsibility and now Sporting must continue to win points. We are convinced that we can take something off Barcelona,” the former Porto boss added.