Who is Ansu Fati? Barcelona’s 16-year-old taking La Liga by storm


Who is Ansu Fati
BARCELONA, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 14: Anssumane Fati of Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's first goal during the Liga match between FC Barcelona and Valencia CF at Camp Nou on September 14, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

When he made his Barcelona debut at the age of 16 years, 9 months and 25 days last month, Ansu Fati impressed even Lionel Messi. But who exactly is the kid and what does the future has in store for La Masia's latest graduate?

Within 5 minutes of opening his account with a fine strike from 12-yards against Valencia last Saturday, Ansu Fati had provided assist to Frankie De Jong to help double Barcelona's lead. In doing so, he became the youngest player in La Liga history to score a goal and provide an assist in the same match.

Such is the hype surrounding the 16-year-old that it's difficult to overstate how good he is. Lionel Messi goes lyrical about him. Ernesto Valverde calls him "daring". The entire Camp Nou chants his name. Press, whether foreign or local, predicts how great a future lies ahead of him.

Surrounded in such hype, Ansu Fati did what his manager had ordained him to do against Valencia. He scored the opener. Minutes later, he assisted one of his teammates. Fati could have scored 1, probably 2 more goals had the luck not evaded his shots.

Yet, nobody in the stadium cared. Even the Barcelona crowd, one which recognizes a great player when it sees one,  rewarded the 16-year-old with a standing ovation as he was subbed off for Luis Suarez on the 60th minute mark. A star was born, and no one inside the stadium thought otherwise.

Who is Ansu Fati?

PAMPLONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 31: Anssumane Fati of FC Barcelona looks on during the Liga match between CA Osasuna and FC Barcelona at Estadio Reyno de Navarra on August 31, 2019 in Pamplona, Spain. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)
Given the start Ansu Fati has enjoyed to his Barcelona career, it seems difficult to imagine that only two months ago, the club's higher-ups were worried that the 16-year-old would leave them for more playing opportunities abroad. 

However, as the likes of Manchester United and City swirled, the Catalans decided to hand the La Masia graduate his wish: a three year contract (with an option to extend it by two more years), the promise of a place in their B-team and a €100 million release clause.

Born in Guinea-Basu, Fasi's talent was there for everyone to see even from an early age. A trip by Sevilla academy-head Pablo Blanco to the West African country's capital confirmed it, and so the Spanish side enrolled the kid aged-eight in their academy.

Two years later, Barcelona came calling. Despite Real Madrid offering him more money provided he signed up for them, Fati decided that his future lay far from the Spanish capital. Once in Barcelona, he partnered with Japanese youngster Takefusa Kobo and together they scored 130 goals for the under-12s in their first season.

With FIFA banning Barcelona from registering foreign players, Fati was forced to watch from the sidelines both the 2014/15 and 2015/16 seasons. Upon his return to the team in 2016/17, he spent one season in the Juvenil-B side before scaling the ranks to play for the Juvenil-A team the following season. It was here that Fati caught the eye of his admirers.

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A star is born

PAMPLONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 31: Anssumane Fati of FC Barcelona reacts during the Liga match between CA Osasuna and FC Barcelona at Estadio Reyno de Navarra on August 31, 2019 in Pamplona, Spain. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

During his time with the Juvenil-A side, Fati, who had originally started his career as a striker, moved to the left in an attempt to get better at dribbling. That decision did wonders for him as his performances on the wing convinced Barcelona to reward Fati with a senior contract only a year later. 

Despite all his heroics for the junior sides, Fati still faced the formidable task of convincing Ernesto Valverde - a manager not known for giving much game time to the youth, to consider him for the senior squad. The 16-year-old managed to do just that during the club's pre-season friendlies and was quickly promoted to the senior side.

One may think that had Neymar signed for Barcelona this summer, Fati might not have been able to prove his worth. After all, both of them occupy the same left-wing flank. So the club's inability to lure the Brazilian to the Camp Nou proved to be a blessing in disguise for the 16-year-old.

In addition to the absence of Neymar, injuries to Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele helped the teenager get a spot in the Barcelona squad. After making his debut in a 15-minute cameo at Real Betis, Fati scored the goal which earned Barcelona a crucial 2-2 draw at Osasuna. A fortnight later, he sinked Valencia.

As a result, while the likes of Messi, Suarez and Dembele would all be fit before long, Fati, due to the performances he has delivered so far in his brief-Barcelona career, should expect more playing opportunities in the senior squad.

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