Ansu Fati is one of the most splendid youngsters in world football. Today marks the first anniversary of Ansu’s breakthrough game for Barça, his Man of the Match performance against Valencia in a 5-2 win.
Football is the most fantastic sport in the world. One just has to look at the number of great young players who have flourished recently at enormous clubs to understand how much passion goes into football really. The greatest clubs in the world have the most talented academies but, unfortunately, prefer to buy finished products. It happened with Barcelona’s “Galactico” era, where the Catalans bought many finished products only for them to turn out badly. Just look at Ousmane Dembélé’s horrific injury record or Philippe Coutinho’s flagrant sadness when he steps on the pitch for Barça. These transfers should have never happened, and surely not for the excessive fees they went for. Barcelona have a pool of talent from which they can pick, and they finally did, in the middle of a financial crisis at the club and the world.
A year ago, before the pandemic and the crisis, Barcelona had other problems, and the main one being an injury crisis decimating the club’s front line with Carles Perez and Antoine Griezmann being the only forwards available in the absence of Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi, and Dembélé through injury. Steps in Ansu Fati, the La Masia gem. At 16, Ansu Fati amazed everyone with a runaway victory over Valencia, which saw him score his second goal for his boyhood club and assist one for Frenkie De Jong’s first for Barça. That performance came a few weeks after he opened his goalscoring record for Barça against Osasuna at El Sadar, one of the harshest places to go in La Liga. Ansu Fati presented himself to the world and never looked back. What’s crazier is that he never played once for the B team, being astonishing in his first year with the senior team.
Photo via Imago
His 2019/20 season, a campaign of despair and humiliation for Barcelona, covered some of the worst performances a club like Barça could display. Whether it was his two goals against Levante, which made the youngest-ever player to score a brace in La Liga, or his insane first start for Spain a few weeks ago, that made everyone acknowledge just how much of an insane talent Ansu Fati is, the fact that he just signed a professional contract in a squad that has a fit Dembélé, Griezmann, Messi, Coutinho or Suarez is already an achievement on its own. Ansu Fati didn’t surprise many Culés with his Man of the Match performance for Spain because he did break records with Barça way before he did with Spain.
The youngest-ever scorer for Spain became Barça’s youngest-ever and La Liga’s third-youngest. After that, he became the youngest Champions League player ever, and his first-time effort against Inter propelled him into youngest-ever Champions League scorer in history. All that in three months. What Ansu Fati showed for Barça was way more than what he offered for Spain, but still, let’s not compare his performances because all he deserves is praise.
After a 19/20 campaign full of disillusion for Barça, Ansu might be the light at the end of the tunnel if nurtured in the best way possible. A winger with pace and a bit of hunger coming through his veins? Basically, everything Barça missed last year or ever since Pedro and Neymar left the sinking ship. Ansu Fati is the final jewel in the crown and the most resplendent one too. Under Ronald Koeman, who intends to use fast wingers like Dembélé and Fati, the Guinea-Bissau born winger will have his chance to impress rather than waiting for it on the bench as Quique Setién uses Arturo Vidal as a winger. Also, who knows, Ansu might become the new Lionel Messi, starting as a 16-year-old gem at Barça and making his boyhood club shine without ever leaving it.
Before getting the next Leo Messi shouts he deserves, Ansu Fati needs a manager that understands him and the use of pacey winger in a dominant team like Barcelona. Ansu is an inside forward and has so many things going around him, but he should be wary of the pressure Culés will put on his shoulders in the coming years, if not this year already.
Barcelona has sold four players: now it’s time to sign
Rakitic, Vidal, Suarez, Semedo. Barcelona have sold quite a few players but have not replaced them yet.
The transfer window is always an exciting time, where big teams go after the best players of the last season, and the weaker sides try to hold on to their best prospects, most of the time in vain. Usually, when a European giant has an awful season, they have a massive rebuild with big signings and other significant sales. The players that have come at the end of the cycle are often replaced for newer and fresher blood to take place, and that’s the beauty of the game.
This summer was supposed to be Barcelona’s rebuild, like 2008 or 2014. 2020. The year Barcelona lost all three trophies, losing to Athletic Club in the quarters of the Copa Del Rey, giving away La Liga like it was nothing, and suffering the club’s most humiliating defeat in its history, an 8-2 battering handed by Bayern. Barcelona’s 2020 squad was the end of a cycle, and, much like 2014, it ended badly.
In 2014, Barcelona had an excellent transfer window, buying Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic, Marc-André Ter Stegen, and Claudio Bravo en route to a second treble in the club’s history, a record only equaled by Bayern Munich in 2020. This year, Barcelona had to go quickly, and it was clear that they had to sell the deadwood even before the pandemic. However, the pandemic changed everything, and Barcelona’s, along with everyone’s, finances plummeted, and soon enough, the dreams of signings became a long-lost memory. At least there were the departures.
Ivan Rakitic, Luis Suarez, Jeremy Mathieu and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen of FC Barcelona acknowledge the FC Barcelona supporters during the new FC Barcelona players presentation | Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
Indeed, Barcelona dearly needed departures as the squad’s heavyweights gained more and more power while declining heavily physically. Luis Suarez, Arturo Vidal, Ivan Rakitic, three of the most overused Blaugrana players over the past two years have left and have contributed next to nothing in terms of transfer fees, even if getting their astronomical wages off the books is the most significant relief a Culé could get nowadays. The club’s wage bill is so high that they had to offload those players, even if they didn’t get the big bucks for them. Fortunately, the money came from England, as it usually does, with Nelson Semedo joining his Portuguese teammates at Wolves to replace Matt Doherty, who went to Spurs earlier this summer. These sales are brilliant in every aspect of the game, and now Barça have to focus on signings, and that before the game against Villarreal on Sunday.
Barcelona needed to get rid of these four players, and there are many more who could (should?) leave before the end of the window, but Barcelona have to focus on getting players who are ready to impress at Camp Nou. The recent rumours regarding Sergiño Dest replacing Semedo are excellent to hear, but where is he? Also, where are the other replacements? The other great players supposed to put Barça back on top?
Don’t get it twisted, Barcelona’s squad isn’t half bad. Dest would improve the team, but since Riqui Puig is not going to be used as much as he should under Ronald Koeman this term and Monchu has been sent on a permanent deal disguised as a loan to Girona, who are really the options for Barcelona in midfield? Will Aleña have the chance to impress this time out? Will Pedri be used as much as he was in pre-season? Or will the Catalan giants buy another Miralem Pjanic to close the path of Riqui Puig? How are Barcelona supposed to compete if their squad is way thinner, and they’re not inclined to bet on youth?
Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images
Also, forget about the midfield, but who will be the striker on Sunday, and for 20/21? Who will replace Suarez, a 20-goal-a-season striker who became a nuisance in the squad but still had decent stats? Is Griezmann that kind of striker? Of course not. So where are the replacements? Where is Memphis Depay? The Dutchman was rumoured to have signed for Barcelona a few weeks ago but Jean-Michel Aulas, the Lyon president, revealed that the Culés had no money. And where is Eric Garcia, the La Masia graduate who’s supposed to return home but Barcelona are not able to generate the kind of money Man City want, which is 18 million Euros — by the way, peanuts in this market.
With all these interrogations coming up, it’s fair to say Barcelona have to act quickly to buy the players they need because they’re not getting any more lifelines in Europe. The first stage motion of censure has already been successful, and if Bartomeu has any pride left in him, he has to nail this transfer window, at least this one! Until then, let’s hope Barcelona don’t go into Europe with basically the same lineup that started the quarter-final against Bayern about a month ago.