Ansu Fati was having an incredible start to the season. After a disastrous 19/20 campaign, Ronald Koeman was brought in with the hopes of revitalizing Barcelona. In order to do so, the Dutchman chose to place his trust in the youngsters of the team, and Fati was Barcelona’s brightest young talent.
Following a summer saga in which Lionel Messi was closer than ever to a Camp Nou exit, the Argentine experienced a poor start to the season. For the first time since the departure of Neymar Jr, a Barcelona forward was able to compensate for Messi’s poor form, and that forward happened to be 17-year-old Ansu Fati.
“I’ve been working in football about 50 years and had never seen anyone quite like this at such a young age. He [Fati] had a fusion of speed, technical skill, feints, dribbles, the ability to commit opponents.”Jose Luis Perez Mena (escuela de futbol Peloteros coach)
Before strictly analyzing Fati’s 20/21 season, let us take a look at the preceding one. Fati announced himself to the football world in the 19/20 season, in which he broke several records. The Spaniard became Barcelona’s youngest La Liga goalscorer, starter, and Champions League goalscorer. Since then, the youngster has broken even more records, and he gave Barca fans some of the few happy moments in a gloomy 19/20 season. As of today, Fati holds the following records:
- Second youngest Barça debutant in La Liga
- Barça’s youngest La Liga goalscorer
- Youngest starter at Camp Nou
- Youngest player to score and assist in a La Liga game
- Youngest goalscorer at Camp Nou
- Barça’s youngest Champions League debutant
- Second youngest player for Spain U21
- The youngest goalscorer in Champions League history
- The youngest player ever to score a double in league history
- Golden Boy nomination
- Second youngest player for Spain
- The youngest goal scorer with the Spanish national team
In the last 2 years, Fati and the title ‘record breaker’ have become synonymous. While in the 19/20 season, the Spaniard wasn’t extremely impactful within the Barcelona team, outside of being a wonderkid; in the 20/21 season – he was the outright best player in a Blaugrana shirt for quite a while. In the ten games he played during the start of the season, he scored five goals and set up four across La Liga and the UEFA Champions League.
In Fati, the Catalan club had finally found an exciting and exhilarating winger who could threaten the opposition’s goal by both being lethal in front of it or by occupying defenders. His prodigious start to the season really made Barcelona fans worldwide wonder if whether the humiliating 8-2 loss at the hands of Bayern would have occurred had Quique Setien deployed the Spaniard on the wings to suppress Bayern’s marauding full-backs.
Eager to turn over a new leaf, Barcelona stakeholders worldwide chose to look forward to an exciting 20/21 season, especially for Fati. So what went wrong?
In November 2020, Fati suffered a ghastly injury. In Barcelona’s game against Real Betis, the wonderkid had his meniscus in his left knee torn and has been out of action ever since. Fati went through surgery following his injury but the aftermath of the surgery wasn’t great.
The recovery process was sluggish, and his knee got infected. Following the infection, Fati underwent a second surgery, further postponing his return to the team. This occurred in February, as Barcelona were approaching the most crucial time of the year. Both surgeries did not yield the results that were expected, and so there was discussion within Fati’s entourage about having a third surgery. It was feared that Fati’s entire meniscus might have to be removed. The absence of a meniscus can be career-ending.
Fati did end up having surgery, however, only a part of his meniscus was removed in a partial meniscectomy. This third surgery is expected to be the final one, terminating all of Fati’s knee problems. The Spaniard is expected to return to first-team training after 2 months.
All anyone can do at this point is hope that the surgery wasn’t detrimental and that no unforeseen complications stagnate Fati’s progress. Everybody is left to wonder about Fati’s future. In a 20/21 season where he did not get injured, Fati could have sealed his place as an undisputed starter in the team and could have helped Barcelona against PSG in the Champions League, and in the title race.
But Fati did get injured, and so dreaming about ‘what could have been’ is counter-productive. What Barcelona fans have to do now is look to the future.
Due to the unfortunate stream of injuries, Fati has not been able to participate in Spain’s Euro 2020 campaign, which could have seen him make a name for himself in international football. However, the 18-year-old is going to have plenty of opportunities to compete in major international competitions. The Spaniard chose to prioritize his recovery showing that he is taking care of himself physically and that the best version of Fati is yet to come.
Fati is a borderline generational talent. While that term gets thrown around nowadays, the Spaniard’s accolades have put him in real contention of the title. Now all that remains is consistency. Fati’s future at Barcelona could have looked bleak had his entire meniscus been removed or if Neymar Jr was signed, as that would have severely halted his progress.
Luckily, only a partial meniscectomy was conducted, and Neymar recently signed a 5-year contract extension with PSG, which should put the rumours surrounding the Brazilian’s return to the Camp Nou to bed. There is nobody and nothing stopping Fati from making the left-wing position all his. With Ousmane Dembele being disappointing in the crucial games and Griezmann playing some of his best football yet from the centre-forward position, no player in the squad can threaten Fati’s prominence in the team.
The Spaniard must propel himself off this season and strive to stay fit in the next one. The 20/21 Fati made better decisions on the pitch than the 19/20 Fati, and the 21/22 Fati must do even better. If the youngster can refind his excellent form from this season and stay fit, a new star will shine under the Camp Nou lights.
Season Rating: 7.5/10
If Fati was to be rated only on the games that he did play in, his rating would be infinitesimally close to 10, however, the entire season must be considered. While Fati was moving with great momentum at the start, his stream of injures did compromise his overall contribution to the team.
The bulk of Fati’s rating comes from how much he improved from his debut season. Many young talents have an eye-catching debut season but shrivel under the pressure of building on that debut season. Fati did not shrivel, rather, he bloomed. The 18-year-old was a better shooter, passer, dribbler, and decision-maker than his 19/20 self. If not for his unfortunate injuries, the footballing world might have witnessed an iconic season from a player who is most likely going to go on to make history.
The 20/21 season has elapsed and Fati must look to the season on the horizon. Koeman staying will definitely benefit the Spaniard and he must use the next season to improve individually and be fit during the most crucial stages of the season.
With Barcelona going through a transitional era, there will come a time when a player will have to hold the torch passed on by Lionel Messi, and with the promise he has shown, Fati seems to be that torch-bearer. Fati’s 20/21 was good and was filled with potential. While his injuries did cause a disturbance in the short term, Fati’s trajectory to the top seems to be intact.