Ansu Fati is Barcelona’s new superstar, the 16-year-old has been thrust into the limelight after making history on Saturday, becoming the youngest player in La Liga history to register a goal and an assist in the same game.
Even more impressively, he needed only seven minutes to do so in his team’s 5-2 demolition of Valencia. Just 110 seconds had elapsed when he opened the scoring by meeting Frenkie de Jong’s low cross with a confident right-footed strike from 12 yards; five minutes later, he returned the favour by weaving his way into the box and picking out a precise pass for De Jong to convert.
Fati then continued to thrill the 80,000-plus Nou Camp crowd with a series of skilful thrusts down the left-wing, coming close to more goals on several occasions and making it plain that this prodigious teen is poised for greatness.
So, who is he and where did his sudden explosion on to the scene come from?
Fati was born on 30 October 2002 in Guinea-Bissau, and spent the first six years of his life in the African country before moving to Herrera, a tiny town in southern Spain, after his father Bori – a former semi-professional footballer in Guinea-Bissau – found work as a driver for the town’s mayor.
At first, Ansu was outshone by his elder brother Braima, who was signed by Sevilla’s academy. But Ansu joined him before long, and by 2010 his dribbling and shooting talents had attracted serious interest from Spain’s big guns.
According to Bori in a recent radio interview on RAC1, the best financial offer came from Real Madrid – but Barcelona made more effort, with then-academy director Albert Puig (now at New York City FC) making a personal visit to the family home to state the Catalan club’s case. Barca also offered residency within their famed La Masia youth complex, so the Fati family headed to Barcelona.
Braima and Ansu – who were later joined at La Masia by younger brother Miguel – continued to impress, although they were temporarily sidelined in 2014 following Barca’s transfer ban for breaking Fifa regulations on signing young players from overseas. (The Fati brothers had moved from within Spain so they were not directly implicated, but the club briefly removed them from the line of fire as a precautionary measure).
Ansu had another setback in 2015 when he suffered a broken leg, but his progress would not be hindered and last season he was one of the stars of the Uefa Youth League, scoring twice in the semi-final against Chelsea but seeing his team knocked out on penalties.
His goal-laden performances for the youth team were also rewarded with a solitary call-up for the club’s reserve team, which competes in Spain’s third-tier Segunda B Division. So Ansu’s first taste of professional football, in March this year, came in a distinctly underwhelming manner: an unused substitute in Barca B’s 1-0 victory at the Ebro in front of a couple of hundred spectators.
At that stage, Fati was still a million miles away from first-team football at the Nou Camp. But then came a whirlwind summer.
The first real sign of just how highly Barca regarded Fati’s talents came in July when much-hyped 16-year-old midfielder Xavi Simons stunned the club by accepting a big-money offer from Paris St-Germain.
The day after Simons’ departure, Barca responded by handing Fati a new three-year contract with an eye-watering release clause of 100m euros, sending out a clear message to predators: one of La Masia’s crown jewels had been stolen, but Simons would be the only one to slip away.
Even so, Fati was expected to spend this season continuing to play for the youth team – now managed by former goalkeeper Victor Valdes – with occasional bonus outings for Barca B, and he was not included in the senior squad’s pre-season trips to Japan and the United States.
Fati wasn’t even considered for selection in Barca’s season opener against Athletic Bilbao, but when that game resulted in Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele suffering injuries, joining skipper Lionel Messi on the sidelines, manager Ernesto Valverde was suddenly left with a serious shortage of numbers in attack and called Fati into the squad for the home opener against Real Betis.
The 16-year-old made it to the bench and, with his team-leading 5-1 and the game already won, was introduced as a substitute for the final 10 minutes. Fati instantly looked at home, producing some bright touches on the right-wing and earning a warm congratulatory post-match embrace from Messi.
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Source – BBC