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We’re all here for the Lionel Messi-Ansu Fati mentorship

The youngster was on fire and the old master must be loving it

FC Barcelona v Villarreal CF - La Liga Santander Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Ansu Fati had a monster game in Barcelona’s 4-0 triumph over Villarreal. The youngster scored twice and won a penalty, in effect having a hand in three of the four goals.

Lionel Messi was on hand as well to contribute, scoring one goal and forcing an own goal.

For a long time, Luis Suárez was Messi’s best friend in the Barcelona squad. Now, he has left the team. While Fati probably can’t replace Suárez as Messi’s best friend, there’s a burgeoning partnership between the old master and the prodigal student.

Suárez and Messi are similar in age and come from neighboring countries. Messi is nearly twice Fati’s age, and they come from different continents - although to be fair both have lived in Spain for a while.

Fati moved from Guinea-Bissau to Seville at the age of six, while Messi was around 13 when he moved from Argentina to Barcelona. Fati chose to represent Spain internationally. Messi turned them down for his native Argentina. Both broke onto the scene at very young ages, having turned La Masia upside down with their enormous talent. The stories are not the same, but they’re similar enough that perhaps Messi sees a bit of himself in Fati.

It’s still too early to declare Fati the next Messi, and their playing styles are not even all that similar anyway. Fati is right-footed and a few inches taller than the left-footed Messi. Undeniably, Fati has potential to reach heights most can only dream of. But we’ve seen many young stars fizzle out. The fact that Fati broke many youth records held by Bojan Krkić should be a warning. The stress of expectation sunk Bojan despite all his promise.

Messi has always been complimentary towards the teenager, saying since his earliest days in the first team that Fati was “a fantastic player” who “has what it takes to succeed.”

A few days ago, Fati spoke about the Argentine, saying that “playing with Messi is a dream I had since I was a child and now I am living it.”

“He gives me a lot of advice, he helps me a lot on the pitch and in training, but away from it too, and that makes me very happy.”

Their burgeoning relationship was in evidence in the win against Villarreal, most notably after Fati won the penalty. If you’re on a hat trick, perhaps it would be fair to expect Messi to allow you to take the penalty you just won. Messi is known for “donating” penalty attempts to players who are low on confidence who might need the goal to help them start a scoring streak.

Fati could have lobbied for consideration to take it. Instead, the youngster got up, spotted Messi, and flipped the ball to him with a smile.

Messi took the penalty, scored, and was quick to go to Fati and whisper into his ear. Perhaps he said something along the lines of, “don’t worry, you’ll get to take a few of these, too.”

Messi may not have his best friend on the team anymore, but he does have a star pupil he can mentor. Just like Ronaldinho was, at some point, a bit of a mentor to him. It could be quite something to watch this season.

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