Barcelona’s plans for teenage sensation Ansu Fati

The Catalans have a potential superstar on their hands and have laid out a blueprint to ensure they get the best out of him.

While few people saw Ansu Fati's incredible explosion coming at the age of just 16, Barcelona have never doubted his abilities and look poised to give him plenty of chances to shine this season. 

Long seen as La Masia's most important player - alongside Ilaix Moriba - Fati has been on the radar of Barca’s senior team for some time. And Ernesto Valverde didn't hesitate to promote him when an injury to Ousmane Dembele opened the first-team door for the teenager.

Becoming  the Catalans' youngest player since 1941 when he came on against Real Betis in August, the exciting attacker has quickly become a record breaker. 

Fati is now Barcelona's youngest ever La Liga goalscorer , following his strike against Osasuna, and also their youngest player to feature in the Champions League when he started against Borussia Dortmund in a 0-0 draw. 

It's been a simply stunning start to life for a teenager that's always shown the right combination of skill and attitude - with many at Barca struck by his humble nature and drive to succeed. 

"He is a player who has something special. For his age it seems that he is more mature," Valverde said after Fati bagged another goal and assist against Valencia. "What you see in training is what you see here."

While quickly making a name for himself at Camp Nou, the Catalans had to make a real effort to keep him over the summer with the likes of Real Madrid, Sevilla, West Ham and Nice all circling before Fati was convinced to sign a renewal.

A key factor in ensuring he remained was Barcelona's push for the attacker to be deployed more as a winger rather than in the number nine position he generally graced at La Masia.

This change of position was viewed not only as the best way to make use of his attributes, but also to maximise his playing opportunities in a side that requires attackers to often fill in across a dynamic frontline.

Such a switch has so far paid off for both Barca and Fati, with the teenager showing he's dangerous on both flanks. He has also not lost his natural goalscoring ability, as demonstrated by his two league strikes to date. Both goals saw the Guinea-Bissau born prodigy pop up in the box at the right time and finish with an assuredness that dwarfs his mere 16 years.

As well as learning from so many Barca stars on the pitch and training ground, Fati is also now receiving some high-profile guidance off it having made Rodrigo Messi, the brother of Lionel, his agent last summer.

Just as Ronaldinho and his agent-brother Roberto de Assis helped Messi when he was breaking through, Barca's newest wonderkid also has the sibling of a legend helping shape his own future.

Incidentally, that future now looks to be all but locked at Camp Nou, with Fati's recent contract renewal seeing a €100 million (£88m/$110m) buy-out clause inserted into his contract.

Having allowed previous La Masia talents Xavi Simons and Takefusa Kubo to slip through their fingers, Barcelona have ensured Fati won't be joining that list anytime soon. Indeed, they could even offer the teenager a new, improved contract should he continue to impress for the first team.

As it stands, the teenager remains firmly in Valverde's plans this season but he will face fresh competition for minutes when Dembele is cleared for a return 

While the Frenchman was an expensive acquisition, his value at Barca has quickly decreased and there is no guarantee he will dethrone Fati, who has thoroughly impressed in his absence. 

Dembele started in the club's season opener against Athletic Club, with the attacker's decision to seemingly cover up an injury angering team-mates and Valverde as they slumped to a shock 1-0 loss.

Despite being six years younger than Dembele, Fati has quickly shown more maturity on the training ground, with his performances on the pitch only further cementing his claim of being above the former Dortmund player in the club's pecking order.

“Wherever you are, the player who earns his place is the one that plays, there is no secret, the coaches want players to come out - if they are young and have energy you use them," Valverde said last week. 

“Ansu has qualities that suit us, we will see the potential he has." 

At just 16, it's worth noting that La Masia's latest diamond still requires some polish but there is the feeling among some at Barcelona that he could even play deeper in midfield as he develops.

Yet for now, Fati has already proved his worth in attack, with the club and player now in an ideal position to make the most of his undoubted talent.



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