Ansu Fati hadn't even played for Barcelona's B side when he was handed his senior team debut by Ernesto Valverde at the start of the last season. Many people questioned his decision as the 17-year-old was highly inexperienced, despite having heaps of talent and potential.
However, as the season progressed further, Fati showed that he has in him what it takes to compete at this level. He scored seven goals in a total of 24 games that he played for Barcelona last season. The attributes which impressed everyone was his bludgeoning pace and penetrating ability.
After Neymar's departure from the club, it was pretty hard to find players as talented as the Brazilian to fill the void in the left flank. They had acquired French youngster Ousmane Dembele to fill up that void but recurring injuries didn't allow him to cement his place in the first team.
That's where Fati came in. Yes, he wasn't a finished product but the qualities he had were already good enough to fast-track him to the senior level. And the way he performed for the iconic club in the 2019/20 season after that was exceptional for a 17-year-old. Yes, there were other young players around the world who had dished out better performances than Fati. He was surely a young talent on the rise but he still had some distance to cover in order to take his place among the best young talents in world football. However, as things stand right now, we could see him covering that distance in the ongoing season itself.
Fati made his international debut for Spain this year and scored his maiden goal in the match against Ukraine last month as well. That made him the youngest player ever to score for Spain. Moreover, the departure of Luis Suarez to Atletico Madrid has created further room for him in Barcelona's front three this season and he made it count, having scored thrice in their three La Liga matches so far. Even though he was used on a rotation basis last season, he is more of a first-team material this time around.
Ever since Neymar's departure, Barcelona needed a player like Fati in the left flank. His pace, skills and penetrating ability form the perfect combination to go with Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho's creativity.
In fact, Fati doesn't only have the flair and pace, but he also has a cool head and clinical finishing ability that helps him to deliver under pressure. That's why he is a threat for opposition defences and his attributes will always help to lighten up Messi's load.
While his body might not be ready yet to cope with the rigours of such a long and intense season, and that's why keeping a player like him fresh and motivated will be one of the biggest challenges for Ronald Koeman. If he can do that, nothing can stop Fati from having a breakout season.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Miguel Riopa