Why Barcelona can't make the same mistakes with Ansu Fati the club made when wasting most of Lionel Messi's peak years.
Ronald Koeman knows he has a player to build around in the form of 17-year-old Ansu Fati. Getting the most out of Barcelona’s young star will mean avoiding the mistakes the club made with Lionel Messi.
Poor recruitment helped waste most of Messi’s peak years. It’s why the 33-year-old wanted out this summer. His desire went unfulfilled after Messi backed away from a potential legal standoff with Barca and La Liga over a clause in his contract.
Fati showed Barca how bright a post-Messi future can be by inspiring Sunday’s 4-0 win over Villarreal. The teenager scored twice and won a penalty Messi converted.
Koeman left no doubt about Fati’s potential and importance:
Ansu is a young player, and we are still seeking consistency in his performances. He has a great future and I am happy with his performance against Villarreal.
His progress has been enormous, and we have benefited from that. He keeps proving his worth and we are confident he will keeping developing.
Messi’s skills haven’t declined, but the quality of the players around him has decreased. Barcelona sold Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain and never adequately replaced the Brazilian.
Ousmane Dembele has been injury-prone, while Antoine Griezmann and Messi have rarely seemed simpatico. Those issues compound the decision to dismiss 198-goal Luis Suarez without much fanfare.
There have been deeper problems in midfield, where Xavi and Andres Iniesta weren’t replaced with similarly skilled technicians. Instead, Messi had to make do with more industrious types such as Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal.
Fati needs a stronger supporting cast around him, one full of players more suited to his skills. Messi is already an obvious role model:
Philippe Coutinho and Griezmann also played a part in helping Fati dominate on Sunday. Koeman’s squad contains enough attacking talent to keep Fati supplied with chances.
The next step will be ensuring enough supply from midfield. Former Juventus playmaker Miralem Pjanic will help.
He made a brief appearance off the bench against the Yellow Submarine. Pjanic’s artistry will restore the style Barca played with during Messi’s heyday.
Pjanic and Coutinho will bring the flair back to Barcelona this season, but Fati’s development is key to the future. It’s a future not likely to include Messi, who only has one year left on his contract.
The bitter standoff with club president Josep Maria Bartomeu left wounds that won’t heal. Messi moving on means Barca will need a new attacking talisman, and Fati has all the qualities for the role:
Fati is the future, and Barcelona can’t risk alienating him the way Bartomeu did with Messi. Otherwise, recent history will soon repeat itself with a prized asset who already has a clause worth €400 million in his first professional contract.
Building teams strong enough to win La Liga and the UEFA Champions League will keep Fati happy and guarantee the consistency Koeman desires.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of CCN.com.