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Spain badly missed Ansu Fati at the Under-17 World Cup

Spain took a decent group of players to the Under-17 World Cup in Brazil, but, having witnessed them go out to France in the quarter-finals, I think their last-eight finish was a fair reflection of the level they were at. There was simply no getting away from the physical gulf between the two sides at the Estadio Pedro Ludovico in Goiânia, and as I watched David Gordo's men do battle for a semi-final place, it was clear to see that the team who were faster, taller and stronger would go on to take the spoils. Altius, citius, fortius, as the old Latin motto goes. The French had the better of the Spaniards in all three departments.

Ansu Fati would have made a big difference to Spain

But that shouldn't take away from what was a good overall showing from Spain, who were unfortunate to be without Ansu Fati. He would surely have helped to bridge the gap, both physically and in footballing terms. Barcelona sweet-talked the Spanish Football Federation into leaving him behind, so that he could keep Ousmane Dembélé on his toes (I fear the Frenchman didn't even twig) and instead focus on the Under-21s. All of which means a lad who could have been the star of the Under-17 World Cup was left out. Luis Rubiales has no problem standing up to Javier Tebas, but is rather less ballsy when it comes to Barça, it seems.

One would hope that every age-group team really could represent the best Spain has to offer at that level. That wasn't the case here. Fati is a precocious talent who, in the face of France's overwhelming physical strength, could have given Spain a crucial attacking outlet. The demands of the professional game in Spain led Barça to cling on to the extra few percent that having Fati among their ranks gives them. It's a shame. He looks like blossoming into a major star, and among players of his own age he would have stood apart. By not releasing him for the event, Barça have shown just how unsure of themselves they must be feeling.