Barcelona appear to have produced yet another world class talent from their conveyor belt at La Masia academy in the shape of Ansu Fati.
The Guinea-Bissau-born 17-year-old is the talk of La Rambla after making his debut for Spain on Thursday night – becoming the youngest player to do so since 1936.
Fati smashed yet another record on Sunday when he scored against Ukraine to become the country’s youngest ever goalscorer.
In what has been an otherwise dour 12 months for the Blaugrana, Fati’s emergence from La Masia to the first team is a genuine beacon of hope for new boss Ronald Koeman.
Lionel Messi’s future at Barcelona is far from certain and it could soon fall to the teenager to fill his shoes.
Messi wanted to leave on a free transfer but that was rejected and he eventually conceded defeat. He remains a Barca player for now but his discontent is well publicised.
The Argentina superstar, 33, is not happy and the Catalan club could be forced to look more towards the future and that means Fati.
After all, it was Fati who scored just six minutes into his LaLiga debut, two minutes into his home LaLiga debut and then recorded his first ever assist just five minutes later.
Such incredible form at such a young age has undoubtedly seen his stock rise, with Manchester United reportedly interested in making a move for the youngster.
ANSU FATI – LALIGA STATS 19/20
- Name: Anssumane (Ansu) Fati
- Current Team: FC Barcelona
- Age: 17 (31/10/2002)
- Nationality: Spain
- Shirt number: 31
- Height: 178cm
- Positions: RW/LW/CF
- Appearances: 11 (13)
- Goals: 7
- Assists: 1
- Shots per game: 1.4
- Key Passes per game: 0.8
- Pass success percentage: 85.7%
What’s the gossip?
The current state of Barcelona can only be described as ‘complicated’, with the saga surrounding Messi and the presidential elections threatening to besmirch the club permanently.
Current president Josep Bartomeu has failed to organise the team effectively, with several of his signings irking supporters. Selling Artur and bringing in Miralem Pjanic is the sort of short-term thinking which has frustrated fans.
Fati is very much the future of Barca, although United’s interest in him is genuine. Although Jadon Sancho is still a priority target for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Fati is seen as the perfect alternative.
Last month, Mundo Deportivo claimed United would be willing to pay out Fati’s release clause if they failed to sign Sancho. However, the future of the England international still remains unclear.
Club career so far?
As mentioned, Fati got his Barca break last season under former boss Ernesto Valverde away to Osasuna.
Trailing by a goal, Fati grabbed an equaliser just six minutes after coming on and repeated the trick two weeks later at home to Valencia as he started the game alongside Antoine Griezmann.
So far, the Spain international has spent the majority of his career on the left wing where he can cut inside to pose a direct goal threat – his composure at such a young age truly is marvellous.
However, with Luis Suarez, Griezmann and Messi all vying for starting positions, Fati has often moved out to the right hand side and his positional awareness, pace and two-footedness make him a dangerous and versatile player.
As well as being Barca’s youngest ever scorer in the league, he is also now the youngest scorer in Champions League history – against Inter at the San Siro no less.
It is almost incredulous to think West Ham United almost signed him last summer...
How much is he likely to cost?
Fati’s incredible rise saw the club rush to give him a contract extension in December with a €170million release clause inserted, which would rise to €400m when he officially signed a professional deal.
According to Spanish publication Marca, Bartomeu is set to reward Fati with a new contract ‘imminently’ which will see the youngster get a new shirt number, a significant raise in his salary and a £360m release clause inserted.
Having spent his childhood playing football on the streets of Bissau, the west African nation of Guinea-Bissau’s capital, Fati remains true to his street footballer style.
He moved to Seville at the age of six when his older brother, Braima, signed for Sevilla at the age of 14.
Although able to represent Guinea-Bissau internationally, Fati considers himself to be ‘a Sevillian’ and he was granted Spanish citizenship on September 20 last year, earning a call-up to the Spain Under-21 side a month later.
He received his call-up to the full Spain side on August 20 for the Nations League campaign, making his debut on Thursday evening.
What is being said about him?
Lionel Messi, Barcelona captain
“Ansu Fati got my attention from the first time I saw him training, but you have to go step-by-step because he is 16 years old.
“He still doesn’t have the responsibility that others want to put on his shoulders. He has the potential to be a very important player but we have to help him.”
Raul Gonzalez, Real Madrid legend
“There are youngsters who appear out of nowhere and have something different about them. You have to be patient, relaxed and enjoy them.”
“I believe it’s good for football that young players come through and show that type of quality. What success they’ll have depends on what they do on the pitch as they follow their own path.”
Perez Mena, Ansu Fati’s first coach in Seville
“In Guinea he was used to playing with balls made of rags, but when he got a real ball for the first time it was incredible to see him.
“I’ve been in the football game for 50 years and I’ve never seen anything like him. He’s got huge personality; he doesn’t fear anyone and you only need to see him on the pitch to see that.”
How would he fit into the team?
Barcelona – Ronald Koeman
Perhaps Koeman’s first job as Barca boss is to restore an identity to the team which has become lost in recent seasons.
A disciple of the blaugrana philosophy since the days of John Cruyff, the former Netherlands boss is likely to stick to either a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 formation to get the best out of Frenkie de Jong in midfield.
After the nightmare 4-4-2 diamond formation used agaisnt Bayern Munich in the Champions League humiliation, playing Messi (if he stays) up front with genuine width from Fati and wonderkid Trincao would be much more solid.
Spain – Luis Enrique
Former Barca boss Enrique relies on the same 4-3-3 formation which he used to devastating effect during his tenure at Camp Nou.
Finding penetration in attack like the Messi-Suarez-Neymar years has so far been a problem, with speed an issue for the Spainards.
However, Leeds’s record signing Rodrigo has bags of pace up front and Fati can play alongside Manchester City new boy Ferran Torres on the flanks.
Manchester United – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Jadon Sancho remains United’s top target and the consensus is he would play on the right hand side, with Mason Greenwood then expected to compete with Anthony Martial for the striker position.
Should the Red Devils fail to sign Sancho, Fati would seamlessly fit into the position on the right and provide width.
Given how attack-minded United’s midfield could be next season and Rashford’s desire to cut in from the left, Fati would have to stay very wide or else United would find themselves congested.