Ansu Fati and the five other youngsters that could save Barcelona’s season
The summer of 2021 turned out to be something of a nightmare for Barcelona fans as the club hierarchy bit the bullet and made difficult decisions in the transfer market after years of financial mismanagement.
Not only did Lionel Messi leave on a free transfer, but big-money signing Antoine Griezmann departed for reigning La Liga champions Atletico Madrid. Luuk De Jong arriving on deadline day is a symbol of their current state.
But it’s not all doom and gloom at the Camp Nou. There are some seriously exciting talents emerging, while the club’s crisis offers them an opportunity to step up and show that they can be the future of the club.
Here are the six young players that could save their season.
It was 323 long days out sidelined for the prodigy, the jewel in the crown at La Masia, but Fati offered a reminder of what a special player he is with a delightful strike on his return.
He only needed 10 minutes to get on the scoresheet, immediately extinguishing fears he’ll take time to get back up to speed after such a long time away.
Given how the last year has gone, it’s easy to forget he’s still only 18. If Fati can remain injury-free going forward, the sky’s the limit. Believe the hype.
Ansu Fati is BACK! 🔥
The young superstar marks his return from injury after 323 days with a goal, goes to the bench to celebrate with the Barcelona staff, and then into the stand to celebrate with his brother 🔵🔴
What a moment! 🙌 pic.twitter.com/s11E7Bguzr
— Premier Sports (@PremierSportsTV) September 26, 2021
Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool have reportedly been monitoring Balde’s prospects for some time, and it’s not difficult to see why.
With Jordi Alba facing a spell in the treatment room due to a hamstring injury, it looked as though Ronald Koeman was set to place his faith in 17-year-old rising star Balde for a run in the first team.
Unfortunately, a back problem saw him withdrawn after just 42 minutes on his first La Liga start. It remains to be seen when he’ll be back available again, but the show of faith bodes well for his chances of properly breaking through this season.
At 22, Araujo is perhaps stretching the definition of “youngster” – having made his senior debut for Uruguayan club Rentistas back in 2016 – but he looks composed beyond his years.
With a dominant, all-action performance in what was otherwise a diabolically poor performance in a 1-1 draw at home to Granada, the centre-back proved he’s a natural leader and could be a mainstay of the backline as the Catalan club starts to consider a future without Gerard Pique.
Not only is he an astute defender, but his physical gifts also make him a real threat in the opposition box.
Ronald Araujo 🇺🇾 vs Granada
64 Accurate Passes
94% Pass Accuracy
1 Succesful Dribble
2 Shots on Target
1/1 Ground Duels Won
10/12 Aerial Duels Won
Beast Mode from Araujo 💪 pic.twitter.com/Zmk0N8s4zp
— ArsenKveFCB (@ArsenKve_HD) September 20, 2021
It was clear as day last season that Pedri is a special talent. For all Barcelona’s ridiculous mismanagement in recent years, signing the midfielder for just €5million from Las Palmas looks a masterstroke.
The 18-year-old underlined how good he is at Euro 2020, where he was arguably Spain’s best player. Having also represented his country at the Tokyo Olympics, Pedri has finally got a much-needed rest, albeit in part due to a (probably inevitable) muscle injury.
His return is imminent and we expect to see him continue to tear it up in the Spanish top flight going forward.
Pablo Martin Paez Gavira (Gavi) caught the eye with a passable impression of near-namesake Xavi in pre-season, and circumstances have dictated he’s been thrown straight into the deep end.
He only turned 17 in August, but Gavi has already featured in four of Barcelona’s six league games so far, starting two. Expect him to clock up many more minutes before his 18th birthday next summer.
Having come on as a substitute in three of Barcelona’s first five league games, Nico Gonzalez was handed his first start of the campaign in midfield alongside Gavi against Levante.
Koeman’s men preceded to produce their best performance of the season so far with a 3-0 win, while young Nico formed a promising-looking partnership with the considerably more experienced Sergio Busquets at the base of midfield.