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Statistical Analysis: Neymar’s Best Replacements are Gareth Bale and Ousmane Dembele

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Bale is the best overall, but Dembele might be the smartest choice.

2017 MLS All-Star Game: Real Madrid v MLS All-Stars Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The stats nerds at FiveThirtyEight have crunched the numbers to find who can best replace Neymar after he left FC Barcelona to join Paris Saint-Germain. They considered three statistical categories: scoring, progressive passing, and time spent in the winger position. They then gave a “similarity score” to players in the top five European leagues, with lower being better:

Neymar Repacement

NAME CLUB AGE SCORING BALL PROGRESSION POSITION SIMILARITY SCORE
NAME CLUB AGE SCORING BALL PROGRESSION POSITION SIMILARITY SCORE
Neymar PSG 25 0.94 4.69 98% 0
Gareth Bale Real Madrid 28 0.87 3.76 87 3.19
Angel Di Maria PSG 29 0.67 5.72 94 4.19
Alexis Sanchez Arsenal 28 0.83 5.79 71 4.24
Ousmane Dembele Dortmund 20 0.57 4.64 67 4.38
Lorenzo Insigne Napoli 26 0.56 4.44 96 4.8
Douglas Costa Juventus 26 0.47 4.81 89 5.17
Eden Hazard Chelsea 26 0.45 5.5 85 5.19
Dries Mertens Napoli 30 1.01 3.4 38 5.29
Philippe Coutinho Liverpool 25 0.58 6.16 81 5.34

Based on this statistical analysis, Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale would be the optimal replacement for Neymar. However, there’s no way he’d join Barcelona. Going down the list, Angel Di Maria stands out because he's been rumored as a short-term replacement, although one has to factor in he plays in the French league, the fifth-best of the top 5 by some distance.

The return of Alexis Sanchez is also an interesting proposition. He's slightly on the older side, true, and Arsenal won't want to sell. But he'd be relatively cheap and would be able to produce right away.

Next comes Ousmane Dembele. The Borussia Dortmund winger is being heavily linked with a Camp Nou switch and it seems like with good reason. The author of the analysis says he’s impressed at Dembele’s production at a very young age. Dembele could replace a large portion of Neymar’s production.

The author also highlights Lorenzo Insigne of Napoli and Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool (another player being heavily linked to Barcelona) as young, realistic targets. Douglas Costa is unlikely to move after just arriving to Juventus, while Eden Hazard seems almost impossible to pry from Chelsea. Dries Mertens rounds out the list.