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Revisiting Ansu Fati’s breakthrough season at Barcelona

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The teenager offered optimism during a tough campaign

Barcelona V Levante Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

Everybody loves Ansu.

The history-making 17-year-old phenom has captured the attention of the world and has the Barca faithful wondering if the club has found its next big superstar.

Born in Guinea-Bissau, Anssumane Fati moved to Sevilla at the age of six to begin training. By the age of ten, he was playing at the legendary La Masia academy.

In 2019, he surprised the world by earning his first professional contract at the age of 16. A few months later he made his debut at the Camp Nou with the first team, becoming the second youngest player in club history.

The next game Ansu introduced himself to the world in Pamplona, rising through the air to head home a critical equalizing goal. He would go on to score eight goals in a sensational first season.

Let’s honor the historic campaign by revisiting the goals and see what they can tell us about his development at the club.

Barcelona at Osasuna (2-2) July 31, 2019

The Blaugrana were trailing by a goal when Ansu came on as a substitute. An in-swinging cross came in from the right side and met Ansu in the middle of the box where he rose up between two defenders flicking the ball into the sidenetting with his head.

It was an exciting moment because of the history, but it was also a sign of things to come. Although this was the only goal scored with his head, we would soon see again his ability to find space making runs through and behind defenders, and a killer scoring instinct that prioritizes accuracy over power.

Barcelona vs Valencia (5-2) September 24, 2019

This was the Ansu and Frenkie connection game with each one scoring a goal on the assist from the other.

In the first you’ll see something that Ansu does often. Like the last goal, he times his run to perfection as the team builds the attack from the wing. He finds the pocket of space in a crowded area and strikes it perfectly first time.

The second goal that Frenkie scores highlights something I’d love to see more of from Ansu. He takes the defender 1 v 1 from the corner of the box to the end line and whips in a perfect cross on the ground with his left foot. Frenkie’s never going to have an easier goal.

Ansu has shown he’s adept at operating in tight spaces. Moments like this make me wonder if he’ll start taking on defenders in the open field as well.

Barcelona at Inter Milan (2-1) December 10, 2019

This was a record-breaking goal making Ansu the youngest player to score in a Champions League game.

It also fits with the pattern that his shots on goal are laser focused and rarely wasted. Once again operating in his comfort zone of tight spaces Fati combines with Luis Suarez on the give and go just outside the box and finds the inside of the post for the goal. This one was a game winner.

Barcelona vs Levante (2-1) February 2, 2020

This goal encapsulated two important take-aways from the season. First, Messi recorded two assists showing his desire to get teammates involved. Second, the recipient of the assists was young Ansu, and he put them away like a pro. This is how you earn Messi’s trust.

On the first one Messi played a masterful through ball as Ansu ran behind a defender, and fought him off on the breakaway with a cool finish. The second goal showed again Ansu’s maturity as a player. He holds his run inside the box perfectly, buying time for Messi to make a move and find him peeling out and wide open. From there Ansu squares up the defender, takes it on his left and finishes strong.

Barcelona vs Leganes (2-0) June 16, 2020

This moment solidified for me that Ansu was born to score goals. Reminiscent of Luis Suarez, Ansu receives the ball surrounded by six defenders and on two touches strikes the ball straight through with the laces.

Like Suarez has done many times, Ansu stayed ready and was quick to react when the opportunity to score presented itself. Also like Suarez, he took it from whatever angle was given. In front of goal Ansu understands that the only thing that matters is to find a way to reach the back of the net.

Barcelona at Villarreal (4-1) July 5, 2020

Ansu pulled out a bag of tricks on this one. He takes the experienced Raul Albiol one on one from the left side. Defenders know in this situation that a right-footed attacker wants to shoot as he cuts across the box. But Ansu keeps his eyes on the players across the field convincing Albiol that he’s going to pass. As the defender commits to the right side Ansu rips a no-look shot to the inside of the front post. Goalkeeper and defender are left frozen.

Barcelona vs Alaves (5-0) July 19, 2020

The goal is scored at minute 1:30, and it was a combination of elements we’ve already seen from Ansu.

First he times his run, lurking at the ege of the box, as Messi takes on a defender. Second, he shows a burst of speed and commitment. Finally, he takes the ball as it comes and without hesitation finishes it off with one touch. In this case there was the added challenge of a deflection forcing him to take it on the volley.

Similar to the goal against Valencia, Ansu beats the goalie at the near post. This one was a cherry on top of an excellent debut season for the young Fati who looks like he’s been playing at the top level for years.

Looking ahead to Fati’s future with the Blaugrana

FC Barcelona v Levante UD - La Liga Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Ansu Fati gave Barcelona hope during a season where it was desperately needed.

Much has been said about the team struggling because of the lack of youth. Along with Riqui Puig, Ansu showed that there are players coming through the ranks of La Masia who are eager to contribute and willing to earn the opportunity.

One of his greatest strengths was his efficiency in putting away goals. Opportunities are not to be wasted and Ansu showed maturity in his high level of concentration.

In addition to that he showed he is a true team player, never looking desperate, and prioritizing possession over risky decision making.

This is also an area of growth for him. He plays the same position as Dembele and Neymar. In order to lock down this position in the long term it will be imperative that he allow himself to be selfish and take chances the way they do.

Of course this is also a job for the manager, be it Quique Setien or someone new. Ansu Fati has tremendous potential, but he is young and will need a proper coach who can maximize his talents.

For now Ansu Fati has won the affection of Barca fans around the world, and that should provide all the fuel he needs to keep electrifying the faithful at the Camp Nou.