Ousmane Dembele not a desperate signing by Barcelona despite price tag

Two years ago, Ousmane Dembele was still two weeks shy of making his full debut for Rennes.

Two years and two transfers later, he's the second-most expensive football player in the world.

Barcelona have used the €222 million they received from Paris Saint-Germain for Neymar -- the world's most expensive footballer -- to make Dembele their club-record signing at a fee that could rise as high as €145m, almost doubling the €80m they gave Liverpool for Luis Suarez in 2014.

Dembele's arrival cannot be called a panic buy, even if he has come at a panic price. Barca have followed the France international for a number of years and will be happy to have finally landed their man. However, they will be reflecting on a number of missed opportunities over the past two years.

Reports of Barca's interest in the 20-year-old first surfaced last spring. There was some confusion as to the veracity of the rumours -- mainly because of complications between Dembele, Rennes and the different agents trying to represent him -- but Diario Sport claimed the Catalan club believed they could sign him for as little as €5m because of a clause in his contract.

That never happened, but a couple of months later, it became clear he would leave Rennes for bigger and better things. He had outgrown the club after less than a year in the first team, becoming the youngest player in the history of Ligue 1 to reach 10 goals in a season -- quicker than both Thierry Henry and Anthony Martial.

Rennes' sporting director at the time, former Manchester United defender Mikael Silvestre, compared him to Cristiano Ronaldo and tipped him to win the Ballon d'Or in the future. The interested clubs -- Barca, Liverpool, Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund and plenty more -- suggested Silvestre wasn't the only one on the Dembele hype train.

Barca sporting director Robert Fernandez, Diario Sport claim, tried to use a young French player at the club at the time, Theo Chendri, to get in touch with Dembele through WhatsApp and tempt him to Camp Nou. Dembele has since confirmed that Robert also contacted him personally.

However, neither Chendri nor Fernandez could come up with the magic words. Dembele took a look at Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez and saw his progress being hampered. Instead, he looked at Dortmund and saw young players being given chances to play.

The German club signed him for €15m, and Barca were left with a reasonable consolation prize at the time: Neymar, Messi and Suarez.

But their interest didn't end there. Even before Neymar's move to PSG, they were back in for Dembele after the forward's impressive debut season in Germany.

Thomas Tuchel, who has since been replaced by Peter Bosz as coach at the Westfalenstadion, said Dembele was the most talented player he's ever trained. Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger labelled him an "exceptional talent" and, like Silvestre, listed him among the players who will compete for the Ballon d'Or in the post-Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi years.

At that time, Dortmund were said to be looking for between €70m and €90m to sell. Barca winced and took a step back to consider their options.

In the meantime, it became increasingly apparent Neymar would leave. All of a sudden, Barca now had a gap on the left of their attack perfect for Dembele, a player they had tried and failed to sign a number of times over the past two years.

The problem, though, was that Dortmund -- and the rest of Europe -- knew they had a Dembele-sized gap and €222m in their pocket. The price had gone up again. Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke has admitted as much. From €5m to nearly €150m in just under 18 months.

Barca left themselves with little choice but to heed to Dortmund's demands. Fernandez and president Josep Maria Bartomeu had promised big signings this summer. And that was before Neymar left. With the Brazilian gone, failing to plug his absence with a stellar arrival would have been a PR disaster.

Have they overpaid? Probably. But it's difficult to judge in the current landscape. There's no consistency from one transfer to the next, and they had buyers stamped on their forehead in a sellers' market. A much better gauge of a player's worth these days is how much he earns. And even that's become skewed with the wages on offer in China.

A general rule is that potential costs more, too. That can be seen in various transfers: John Stones to Manchester City, Vinicius Junior to Real Madrid and, perhaps before the month is out, Kylian Mbappe to PSG.

And Dembele certainly arrives with potential. But without putting too much pressure on the shoulders of a player who is only just out of his teens, at the price they've paid, Barca will need his rapid rise of the past two years to be mirrored at Camp Nou in the next two.