If you never heard the name Ansu Fati before the current season, you can be forgiven. Until a couple of weeks ago, neither had the majority of Barcelona fans. The youngster’s Barcelona career has gone better than anyone could have ever imagined. After scoring against Osasuna and becoming one of the youngest ever to do so in club history, Ernesto Valverde rewarded his play with a start against Valencia – a game that novibet.co.uk felt could see an upset and their prices reflected this with Valencia priced at 2.10. Fati put paid to that.
The 16-year-old has been thrust into the limelight of recent after making uncharted history as he became the youngest player in La Liga history to register a goal and an assist in the same game (BBC).
Even more impressively, he needed only seven minutes to do so in his team’s 5-2 demolition of Valencia. Just 110 seconds had elapsed when he opened the scoring by meeting Frenkie de Jong’s low cross with a confident right-footed strike from 12 yards; five minutes later, he returned the favour by weaving his way into the box and picking out a precise pass for De Jong to convert.
Fati then continued to thrill the 80,000-plus Nou Camp crowd with a series of skillful thrusts down the left-wing, coming close to more goals on several occasions and making it plain that this prodigious teen is poised for greatness.
There’s no doubt that Fati has a lot of potential ahead of him and it’s easy to forget that he’s 16-years old. However, the reality is that he is still developing as a player and that is why it is important that Barcelona have a plan in place both short and long-term.
Before you anticipate seeing the youngster starring at the Nou Camp on a weekly basis, however, there is a clear message from within the club: slow down.
The reality is that Fati has only been able to enjoy his meteoric rise to the first team because Messi, Suarez and Dembele have all been out. Ideally, when all personnel are fit, the youngster will lose his place. In fact, that has already happened.
And in the wake of Fati’s electrifying full debut, there were plenty of words of caution. Valverde emphasized the importance of “our job to protect the player”, while defender Clement Lenglet added: “We have to be calm with him. He needs to listen to people and work hard, because playing for Barca is very difficult.”
Despite the teenager’s stellar start to the campaign, it remains the case that Barca’s first-choice forward line this season will be Messi, Suarez and Antoine Griezmann, and the most Fati can hope to achieve is competing with Dembele for the status of first-choice back-up.
He might probably be sent back to Barça B to continue to his development. Given how he’s performed, supporters and those around Fati may not like that decision. But the club need to do what is best for him and the team.
They need to keep the youngster grounded and make sure things are not coming too fast and too soon. Fans are already grasping to him as the next big thing and it’s easy for that to go to a player’s head. Fortunately, his parents seem to be doing a good job of keeping him grounded.
We’ve seen other young players and how the hype and pressure has negatively impacted them. You have the cases of Bojan Krkic and Gerard Deulofeu. The former managed to take a spot from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the latter was supposed to be the heir to Messi.
If Barcelona want to avoid a similar outcome, Valverde needs to have a clear plan for the youngster and one that makes it clear the confidence the club has in him. With the amount of competitions Barcelona are in, he is going to play quite a lot with the senior team going forward. Though it may not be week in, week out.
The “problem” that Barcelona are soon going to be presented with is one that every club would like to have. It has been a while since an academy product has had such an impact so soon and drawn the accolades of fans, the manager, and teammates alike.
They have something special with Fati. Their job now is to make sure he continues to develop because if nurtured properly, Barcelona have a player in their ranks who could be their next emblematic superstar. The fact that Fati has already scored a header, a goal with his right foot and an assist with his left foot after just 233 minutes of senior football (Whoscored) is a neat indication of his all-round talents, and Barca fans are eager to see a lot more of him. Remember the name. Even now, Ansu Fati is becoming impossible to forget.