It really isn’t that long ago that culers were announcing that Ansu Fati would take up the mantle at Barcelona from Lionel Messi.
The club’s willingness to hand the young striker the fabled No.10 shirt also hinted at the regard in which he was held at the club.
Here was a player that was really going places. Until he wasn’t. Literally.
The injuries that have beset Fati of late are bound to have had an effect on his sharpness, however, with the right care and attention, there’s little reason to think that he won’t be an important player for La Roja in Qatar.
That’s always assuming Luis Enrique actually hands the player some significant match time during this tournament.
It’s clear to me that Fati’s recent lack of prowess in front of goal has counted against him.
Indeed, being the final name on Luis Enrqiue’s squad list for this World Cup tournament arguably gave the striker an early heads up that he was unlikely to be first choice.
You can’t really blame the coach, but sometimes you have to be brave. Like many strikers, Fati is a confidence player.
At present for his club, he’s overthinking everything and achieving nothing. He looks, well, normal.
What came naturally to him pre-injury is now taking so much work, and without a goal to show for his efforts it’s understandable why his confidence might have deserted him.
Against Morocco in the Round of 16, Luis Enrique has the perfect opportunity to either start Fati or, at the very least, bring him on at half-time.
With the African side looking to emulate Japan with a win, they’ll be desperate to carve out chances, and Fati’s pace will certainly be an asset in such a game.
Alvaro Morata could probably do with a rest, and Luis Enrique should be looking to the likes of Fati and his club colleague, Eric Garcia, to come into the fold without seeing any drop of in quality and formational objectives.
Certainly, if Spain want to be seen once again as a favourite for the tournament, then Luis Enrique has got to cast his net a little wider throughout his squad.
Frankly, Ansu Fati is far too good a player to be warming the bench.
He can still grow from game to game and with the confidence of his coach ringing in his ears.
Barca will be hugely grateful too…