Ansu Fati's father is right: Barcelona's 'new Lionel Messi' needs to quit Camp Nou

Ansu Fati Barcelona 2022-23 HIC 16:9
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The forward's love for the club is obvious but a parting of the ways would be best for everyone involved at this stage.

The circumstances in which Bori Fati could have ended his son's Barcelona career were quite extraordinary.

Bori, Ansu's father and agent, called into Spanish radio station COPE, to air out a number of grievances about his son's situation at Barcelona. He complained about Ansu's lack of playing time, he railed against bigger roles handed to other players.

And, perhaps most importantly, Bori called on his son to leave the club he joined as a teenager.

Ansu was apparently blindsided by the outburst and may release a statement of his own, reaffirming his love for Barca. But the damage may already be done.

At the very least, it's another negative development in what should have been a momentous career from a footballer who is still growing.

Indeed, at a time when he should be looking forward to starting against Elche on Saturday, with Raphinha suspended and Ousmane Dembele injured, he is instead dealing with a furore over his future.

It's quite the fall from grace. Just two years ago, remember, Fati was hailed as Barcelona's 'new Lionel Messi' and even handed the No.10 shirt. Now, he can't even nail down a starting spot.

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He isn't the first teenager to be boxed into the Argentine's influence at Barcelona. Indeed, a string of young talents have been dubbed the second coming of the club legend.

Still, Fati was supposed to be the one that panned out. He was never going to reach Messi's talent, influence or production – no one can. But he appeared, at the very least, to be trending in the right direction.

And now, Fati might slip into a familiar Barcelona trap, another failure in a handful of promising attacking players to see their careers flatlined by expectation.

It might be time for the immensely talented 20-year-old to get out of Camp Nou before that can happen.

  1. The heir to Messi's throne

    Everyone knew Fati was good. The Guinea-born winger was accelerated through La Masia and called into the first team before making a single appearance with the reserve side.

    He was a real viral sensation, too, his feints and tricks too easily likened to that of Barca's more permanent right winger at the time.

    He got his moment in the midst of a miserable season for the Blaugrana. The Catalan club had been ravaged by injuries in 2020, and the soon-to-leave Ernesto Valverde arguably had no choice but to turn to Fati, who was just 16 at the time.

    The prodigy seized his chance with aplomb. He became the second youngest player to appear for Barcelona, the youngest to start in the club's history, and the youngest to score and assist in La Liga.

    The teenager grew into the side and, by the end of the season, had bagged eight goals across 15 starts.

    The quality of the goals were eye-catching, too. Fati wasn't just scoring tap-ins. The teenager loved to cut on to his wonderful right foot and shoot at goal. But he could also score with his head, and make late runs into the box.

    The press swiftly jumped onto the hype train, and interest from across Europe followed. A Spain call-up came shortly, as did praise from then-national team manager Luis Enrique. In August 2020, club president Josep Bartomeu vowed to keep him at Camp Nou for life.

    And, inevitably, the claims of a Messi successor stuck.

    The 2020 season turned sour very quickly, though, with Barcelona failing to win a single trophy for the first time in 12 years. It was all capped off by an embarrassing 8-2 drubbing by Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals.

    Amid all that doom and gloom, though, Barcelona had reason for excitement thanks to Fati.

  2. The original injury
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    The original injury

    Sadly, it all started to go wrong soon after.

    Fati's first major injury was a freak occurrence.

    In November 2020, a Real Betis defender tackled Fati, and his knee twisted awkwardly into the Camp Nou grass. A devastating injury diagnosis followed a day later: the teenager had torn his inner meniscus.

    The surgery went as planned but, according to The Athletic, Barcelona messed up Fati's recovery, asking him to do two rehab sessions a day, rather than the required one.

    His knee swelled up and, within two months, he was forced to go under the knife again, this time to fix the original procedure.

    But that operation didn't quite work out either, and Fati ended up having a chunk of his meniscus removed altogether.

    By the end of it all, Fati had had four operations in six months on the same knee. What should have been a three-month recovery turned into nearly 11.

  3. Further fitness problems

    Further fitness problems

    But even when his knee healed, it became clear that Fati wasn't quite right.

    Although he returned to something resembling his old form in November 2021 – bagging goals against Celta Vigo and Dynamo Kyiv – more knocks followed.

    His hamstring went once, then a second time. Meanwhile, he was feeling soreness in his right knee. Another operation was recommended, but he said no.

    He eventually returned to the fold more permanently at the end of last season, making five appearances, all off the bench.

    Fati was crying out for minutes, but Xavi insisted that the player who had thrived as a left winger should operate as a central striker.

    Under that duress, Fati failed to score in just over 100 minutes of game time. He tallied five shots on target in five games as Barca's season fizzled out.

  4. Finally fit but not firing
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    Finally fit but not firing

    But now, something uncharacteristic has happened: Fati is fully fit.

    He has still endured the odd knock here, a muscle pull there. But he has made 40 appearances this season, scoring six and assisting four in all competitions.

    And glimpses of the Fati of old remain. Goals against Cadiz, Villarreal and Real Betis offered hope. A standout performance against Intercity showed promise. His legs are slower, but the movement, runs and intelligence are still there.

    But then, there have been the misses. He skied a free header against Man United that could have changed the fortunes of an unsuccessful European campaign. There was also an accidental block of his own team-mate's shot that would have given the Blaugrana a 2-0 aggregate lead over Real Madrid.

    For all of those mistakes, Fati has been slammed by the press, pushed further out of the first-team picture at Camp Nou.

    And now Barcelona are winning, Fati no longer has the time to fail. The misses count more than they did then, because there’s intense competition for places, particularly up front.

    Playing for Barcelona is a ruthless thing; playing for a successful Barcelona is even more difficult. Fati is just a victim of the team's improvement under Xavi.

    However, his struggles at club level are affecting his international prospects. Fati was also meant to be Spain's next great attacker but he didn't even make the squad for the start of La Roja's Euro 2024 qualification campaign.

    Worse still, it's been reported that Luis Enrique was talking about Fati when he recently revealed that he regretted taking one player to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar...

  5. The next Bojan?
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    The next Bojan?

    Fati has obviously felt the weight of the shirt on his back. The Spaniard was handed Messi's old number at Barca, immediately thrusting the spotlight onto him. Sales of his shirt dipped rapidly recently, and his father made a point of saying that the number should have commanded more respect.

    But he does have support.

    This week, Bojan Krkic announced his retirement from football at just 32. Once a crown jewel of La Masía, the Spain international embarked on something of a journeyman career, marked by spells at Mainz, Alaves, Montreal Impact and Stoke.

    He empathised with Fati’s struggles in an interview a month ago.

    "I have experienced Ansu Fati’s case in my own body," he said. "You generate a lot of enthusiasm at a time when the club need a ‘product’ from La Masia. And I don’t like to say it because I like to hear it, but that’s how we are treated."

    And perhaps that’s what Fati will now be – another mistreated product of the Barcelona machine. Maybe another Bojan, a promising winger whose career crumbled before it could start.

    The options for a move right now could be enticing. Fati’s father repeatedly referred to Sevilla as a destination. Names such as Manchester United and PSG have also been thrown around.

    Perhaps Barcelona will just sell their former future off to the highest bidder – they could certainly fetch a handsome sum. The club will need it to finance a big summer.

    Or, Fati can stick to the line he has always spewed: he will stay and fight for his spot.

    But it might be time to go. In a sense, his father was right. Fati does not need to be the next Messi. Right now, he needs to get back to being Ansu Fati and he will probably only be allowed to do that away from Barcelona.