BARCELONA

Barcelona: Ansu Fati has the makings of Messi's heir

At just 17 years of age, the Barcelona forward is displaying signs of maturity on and off the pitch that mark him out as a genuine future star.

Barcelona: Ansu Fati has the makings of Messi's heir
GORKA LEIZA DIARIO AS

When Quique Setién said that Ousmane Dembélé would soon realise his potential eyebrows were raised about the ability of a player with his injury history and irregular form to deliver consistently and justify his price tag of 115 million euros. And while Can Barça waits for the return of the Frenchman from a hamstring injury, a home grown talent was laying out his credentials on Sunday evening to be considered an eventual solution to the problem that the Camp Nou board will eventually face when Leo Messi and Luis Suárez are no longer around to carry the side.

At just 17 years of age, Ansu Fati provided a timely reminder that sometimes in football money is not the only solution. The Spain under-21 international’s two goals against Levante ensured Barça stayed within touching distance of Real Madrid, who had started the sabbath six points clear of the title holders, and it also added another record to the youngster’s growing collection: Fati is the youngest player to score a brace in LaLiga after becoming Barça’s youngest scorer when he found the net against Osasuna at the age of 16 years and 304 days.

As well as a surprising maturity off the pitch, Fati is starting to exert his influence on it as well. His display against Levante was his best game for the senior side. That Leo Messi provided both assists for his young apprentice was symbolic. It is to Fati that Barcelona are now looking for an eventual heir to the Argentinean. As well as scoring twice, the number 31 also registered five attempts on target, created three goal-scoring opportunities and completed 109 of 116 passes while drawing praise from Setién for his defensive work as well.

Fati and Messi understanding blossoming

As importantly as his own growth, Fati has struck up an understanding with Messi. The exchange between the two for the first goal was reminiscent of the connection between the Argentinean and Neymar and Fati admitted after the game he had been studying Messi for years.

Within the club, there is plenty of optimism surrounding Fati’s future and how far the youngster can go. The desire is there on the part of the player and the Barça hierarchy are willing to give him the tools he needs to succeed. His feet are being kept on the ground as he is still registered with the youth team and spends lots of time training with those players who are somewhere between the under-18s and Barcelona B.

In December, Barça handed Fati a three-year contract extension, keeping him at the club until 2022 (the new deal is extendable by two further seasons). His buyout clause increases from €100m to €170m and will rise to €400m once he signs a professional contract as a first team player. His star could be set to rise further still with Luis Enrique keeping an eye on the 17-year-old ahead of the Euros this summer. On current evidence, he won’t let that go to his head.