Messi on Ansu Fati: I hope all the fuss doesn't have a negative impact on him
The Best winner said he hopes Barcelona take a similar approach with Ansu Fati as the club had done with him at the beginning of his career.
Lionel Messi has hailed 16-year-old team mate Ansu Fati as an “amazing player”, but believes that the young striker needs to be introduced gradually into the Barcelona fray and hopes that the intense hype surrounding him will not impact his development.
Barcelona’s 16-year-old starlet has been one of the unexpected sensations this season, netting two goals and one assist in in just four league appearances and becoming the youngest ever Blaugrana debutant against Borrussia Dortmund last week.
The young striker’s performances have naturally led many to draw comparisons with the great ‘Leo’ himself, who picked up FIFA’s The Best award on Monday night. And in an interview granted to FIFA to mark his award victory, the Argentine superstar said he hopes Barcelona take a similar approach with Fati as the club had done with him at the beginning of his career.
“I really like him and I try to help and support him. He’s an amazing player and he’s got what it takes to succeed. But if I look at it through my eyes, I’d like them to bring him on gradually, like they did with me when I started, taking things nice and easy and without putting pressure on him,” was Messi’s response when asked about the expectations being generated by the teenage striker.
“You have to remember that he’s only 16. I hope he keeps on enjoying it and that all the fuss around him doesn’t have a negative impact on him because he has the quality to become one of the best.”
Rijkaard and Ronaldinho influence
Messi will continue to serve as a guiding influence for Fati, in the same manner that Ronaldinho and ex-coach Frank Rijkaard had for him when he first made his breakthrough to the Barcelona first team and as expectations and media attention intensified.
Messi recalled that omission from the starting XI by Rijkaard in those early days frustrated him, but admitted that it was a decision that he now understands in hindsight.
“Ronaldinho [helped me] and Rijkaard too, who was the coach back then. In fact, I’d say the whole team. Everyone helped me in one way or another, especially the coach when he left me out and I used to get annoyed,” said Messi.
“Now that I’m older I’ve come to understand that was the best thing for me and I’ll always be grateful to him for that. I’ve told him that too. The way he handled me was really important.”