Expected to have been the big move at the end of the transfer window, the Brazilian's exit from Paris Saint-Germain ultimately proved too big to pull off. The 27-year-old was "desperate" to return to Spain, but neither Barcelona nor Real Madrid had the funds to match the £200m-plus price the French champions would have wanted.
This meant any deal was dependent on players going the other way, and was also where it broke down. With Barca's resources so stretched they needed to send three players to match the price - and also to lower their wage bill - both Ivan Rakitic and Jean-Clair Todibo had agreed to go to PSG, but Dembele did not.
Aware of how important he was to any deal, the French forward's camp set high financial terms that both clubs were unwilling to meet. This made a deal impossible.
It is understood Neymar's camp were already attuned to the difficulty of a successful negotiation this late in the window - which did raise questions among some sources about how serious Barca really were - and that there was a change of attitude over the last few weeks. The Brazilian made it clear he would be willing to knuckle down with PSG.
He now faces at least another year with the French champions. In the words of one source, "it's the first time in his career he didn't get what he wanted".
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