Atlético Madrid’s LaLiga opener brought with it the attractive prospect of Luis Suárez’s debut. Los Rojiblancos’ coach, Diego Simeone, had revealed pre-match that Suárez would be involved, if not from the start then at least at some point. And boy, was he involved. Introduced with the hosts 3-0 up and the game won, he ensured that everything that had come before was quickly forgotten. The Uruguayan set up Marcos Llorente to score with an expertly-threaded through ball straight after coming on, before netting two of his own and winning a penalty that was overturned by VAR. All this within the space of 25 short minutes in which he seemed right at home in the red and white stripes. He looked quick, full of energy and on the same wavelength as his new team-mates. A player clearly enjoying his football.
Suárez’s blistering debut wasn’t good news for Barcelona, who were left in no doubt that they have seriously strengthened a LaLiga rival. In addition to his two goals, there was also one for Ivan Rakitic at Sevilla, contributing further to the air of gloom at Barça. Looking at the Blaugrana players in the tunnel ahead of their clash with Villarreal, you could have been forgiven for thinking we were witnessing the attendees at a wake, given the sorrowful atmosphere that was apparent. The eight goals they had conceded against Bayern hung heavy, as did Lionel Messi’s attempted exit, Suárez’s tears, the striker’s brace and Rakitic’s goal. What also hung heavy was an air of intrigue over what Messi’s attitude would be like. The captain led the team out doing his best to make his expression of displeasure clear to all.
Ansu Fati replaces pessimism with optimism
However, the whistle blew and Ansu Fati promptly set about showing once again that he is a talent with a big future. In no time at all, he scored two goals and earned Barça a penalty, which Messi converted, briefly leaving to one side a distant demeanour that was all too visible in his weary gait - one abandoned only from time to time to slip an incisive ball into the run of Jordi Alba, whom he finds with his eyes closed. He began to warm up as the game wore on, looking a bit more like his usual self by the end. There’ll be time to discover in greater detail what Ronald Koeman’s plans are for the team, but one thing he has certainly got right straight away is the inclusion of Fati in his first starting line-up. The youngster’s performance served to replace an atmosphere of pessimism with one of optimism.