Is it still Halloween? Ansu Fati terrifies Dynamo Kiev defenders all night long

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Close your eyes for a moment and imagine the reaction in Britain when the Queen dies. 

Broadcasters, trained regularly for such an occurrence, will be wearing black ties and solemn faces. All comedy programmes will grind to a halt until the funeral. Society will enter an extended period of mourning.

Which brings us, in a roundabout way, to Barcelona and Lionel Messi. Obviously, the comparison has its limitations – Messi will only be departing the Camp Nou – if he fails to sign a new contract, at least – at the end of the current season rather than this mortal realm.

And yet try telling that to the legions of Barca fans who have grown up with Messi’s brilliance as their norm, a stable reassurance in an ever-changing world.

Reluctantly, those fans have been forced to contemplate life without Messi. Happily, the emergence of Ansu Fati has been perfectly timed to provide hope for the future.

Nobody’s comparing Fati to Prince Charles, but the 18-year-old has had quite the meteoric rise. From the very start, it was clear this was a special talent. In the months since, Fati has become an established part of Barca’s starting XI.

Yes, the club has experienced a decline in recent years that culminated in August 2020’s remarkable 8-2 annihilation at the hands of Bayern Munich. But Fati, a late substitute during the Lisbon debacle, is blameless for how ineptly the club has been run.

In fact, his emergence and record-breaking talent may have saved Barca hierarchy the impossible job of replacing Messi in the transfer market. Judging by their history of recent purchases, this may prove to be an incredible stroke of good fortune.

If any further evidence is needed, Fati’s performance in the Champions League match with Dynamo Kiev demonstrated his potential with the clarity of English subtitles over a Danish crime drama.

With Messi contributing an early penalty and an admirable disinclination to defend, Fati assumed the position of being central to all that was good about Barca’s play, taking an incredible 16 touches in the opposition penalty area.

One first-half run terrorised the Kiev defence in such a manner you could be forgiven for thinking it was still Halloween in deepest Ukraine.

Motoring deep into opposition territory, Fati had the thought of mind to check back, leaving a defender trailing in his wake, and fire a shot across goal. It was parried by Ruslan Neshcheret, but Antione Griezmann mysteriously fired the rebound wide.

No bother. Fati had the beating of the Kiev backline and demonstrated this beyond doubt with a moment of improvised brilliance.

Attacking at pace down the left flank, Fati lured Tomasz Kedziora into his gravitational circle with the mere suggestion he could win possession.

Kedziora should have known better. With a drag-back that can be filed in the dictionary under ‘exquisite’, Fati left the Poland international lying on the turf and jinked past him.

It didn’t matter that the winger eventually ran out of space – the point was, he had the skill and forethought to execute the move in the first place. You can only imagine Messi looking on in admiration.

His performance was eventually crowned with the end product it deserved, with Fati providing the cross for Gerard Pique’s second-half header.

With one flick of his right boot, Fati delivered a whipped ball that rendered three Kiev defenders immobile and helpless. While Pique’s header was eye-catching, the quality of the cross made the opportunity appear easy.

If Fati continues producing performances like this, his coronation as Barca’s next king can only be a matter of time.


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