Dallas, United States. 29th July, 2023. Ansu Fati of Barcelona during a match against Real Madrid, international friendly at AT&T Stadium.

Ansu Fati’s Messi-esque strike was the latest indicator of his Barcelona renaissance

Ansu Fati has fallen victim to football supporters and their obsession with shiny new toys in recent seasons.

Fati burst onto the scene (to quote Micah Richards) as a 16-year-old, becoming Barcelona’s youngest-ever goalscorer and impressing observers with his fearless dribbling, low centre of gravity and physicality to match his magical technique.

But a horrific knee injury in November 2020 sidelined the forward for nine months. It wasn’t long before a pulled hamstring set his prospects back further.

The 20-year-old managed 51 appearances in all competitions last season, but just 14 of those outings came as a starter, with many Barcelona fans growing frustrated at the underwhelming form he has shown since his return from injury.

In March, Fati’s father even publicly questioned his son’s lack of minutes this season, but Xavi insisted he has his reasons behind the decision to sideline the youngster.

“It’s that he has competition,” Xavi explained. “Maybe Ferran [Torres], Raphinha are a little better. [Robert] Lewandowski is a guarantee, and then the coach has to decide.

“Ansu has played, he has participated. He has scored decisive goals but there is fierce competition, and it must be fierce to play for Barca.”

Happily, Fati has shone on Barcelona’s tour of the United States this summer and stole the headlines during the 1-0 victory over AC Milan in Las Vegas.

If the match was played in Sin City, watching Fati’s winner on repeat is effectively a one-way ticket to hell. Picking up the ball on the left flank, the Spain international dropped his shoulder and curled an irrepressible effort past the frozen goalkeeper.

Basically, it was the kind of goal that elevated Lionel Messi from Rosario to the pantheon of greatness. And it will surely give Fati the confidence and opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the previous incumbent of Barca’s No. 10 jersey.

Especially when given the context; Fati’s wonderstrike couldn’t have come at a better time for Barcelona, with Ousmane Dembele on the verge of joining PSG.

“I am a little disappointed,” Xavi told Catalan television when asked about Dembele’s impending move to Paris.

“He has told us that he wants to go PSG. We tried to keep him, but there is nothing we can do. He told me he has already spoken to [PSG coach] Luis Enrique and [PSG president Nasser] Al-Khelaifi.

“There was no way to convince him, this is the final decision and it is his personal decision. PSG have made an offer that is completely out of the market. We cannot compete with it.”

Dembele’s exit would, theoretically, leave the path clear for Fati to provide a reminder of why he was so hyped before injuries derailed his progress.

Club president Joan Laporta spoke to Mundo Deportivo about Fati and said that Xavi is planning on giving the youngster more chances next season and is planning more rotation.

“He wants to succeed at Barca,” Laporta said. “He has a gift, which is as a scorer. Xavi told me that in training the ones who score the most goals are Lewandowski and Ansu.

“He comes off an injury, he had a relapse. What [Spain coach Luis] De la Fuente said is true and he reconfirmed to me at the Federation Assembly, that he is like never before and like a bull.

“Ansu wants to succeed at Barca, Xavi is determined to give him opportunities. There are players ahead but we must make rotation the norm and not rotate out of necessity as has happened this season.”

During his 45-minute cameo against Milan, there was enough zip, quality and swagger about Fati’s performance to suggest there could be a stirring renaissance in the offing.

Luckily, his Messi-esque wonderstrike couldn’t have come at a better time for player or club.

By Michael Lee

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