Managers can change, Messi may go – but Ansu Fati will preserve Barca’s DNA


On a night when Lionel Messi broke another record to underline his status as the GOAT, Ansu Fati wrote his own place in the history books to suggest that Barcelona‘s future can still be bright with or without their genius No.10.

After his brilliant solo run won a penalty, Messi opened the scoring from the spot midway through the first half to become the first player to net in 16 consecutive Champions League campaigns.

Fifteen minutes later, Fati doubled Barcelona’s lead at the Camp Nou, scruffily shinning Frenkie de Jong’s chipped pass into the bottom corner. It was Fati’s second goal in the Champions League, making him the only player to score more than once in the competition before the age of 18.

Given the soap opera surrounding Barcelona in recent months – with their managerial conveyor belt seeing Ernesto Valverde replaced by Quique Setien replaced by Ronald Koeman in the last 10 months, all compounded by Messi’s failed Great Escape over the summer – it’s tempting to think that the current set-up at the Catalan giants is not the most conducive for a young player honing his craft.

Suddenly shorn of the experience of Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal – to make matters worse, Koeman’s relationship with Messi appears frosty at best, while the battle for presidential power rumbles on in the not-so-distant background.

But if Fati is putting this theory to the test, the 17-year-old is quickly proving such fears to be…well, a load of bollocks. In his first five appearances of the season, the forward has struck four times and provided one assist.

Within the first 20 minutes of the season, Fati had already struck twice with two clinical finishes and won a penalty in a 4-0 victory over Villarreal, prompting startling comparisons to Messi’s record at the same stage of their careers. A few days later, he opened the scoring again with a swift turn and finish as Barca won 3-0 at Celta Vigo.

READ: Comparing Ansu Fati’s breakthrough year at Barcelona to Lionel Messi’s

At a time when Barcelona are trying to restore a sense of identity – as reflected in their decision to hire a former member of Johan Cruyff’s Dream Team as manager – it seems only fitting that a youngster who has been brought up at La Masia since the age of 10 is now coming to the fore and establishing his role in the side while such uncertainty still surrounds Messi.

He is already closing in on his record of eight goals and one assist from his debut season. In truth, Fati’s opener against Ferencvaros was his worst goal of the season. What at first glance appeared to be an improvised volley with the outside of his boot owed more to the shape of his shinpads than any touch of class.

There was at least something of a touching moment in his celebration. Raised at La Masia, Fati knows that the pass is so often more important than the finish. Turning to the creator of the goal, Frenkie de Jong, he bowed in gratitude to the Dutchman for providing the opportunity.

Shortly after the break, Fati swapped fluke for flair.

Collecting a Messi pass inside the opposition penalty area with four players blocking any potential route to goal, he played a clever backheel into the path of Philippe Coutinho, who thundered the ball past goalkeeper Denes Dibusz at the near post.

“My team-mates make it easier for me to score,” a modest Fati told reporters after the match.

Born in Guinea-Bissau and raised in Sevilla, Fati may not be Barcelona born and bred, but he may be just the man to ensure the club’s values are instilled in the next generation.

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