What has happened to Ansu Fati?
Barcelona are certainly in financial crisis, but with Lionel Messi gone, they've been handed a chance for a fresh start.
New signing Memphis Depay is expected to take on the responsibility previously held by Messi and so far he's performed admirably. Alongside Antoine Griezmann, the pair have softened the blow of losing their talisman, and another player who will no doubt help out is Ansu Fati.
The winger isn't 19 until October, but burst onto the scene during the 2019/20 season. He made 15 starts, and 18 appearances off the bench, in all competitions in that campaign, scoring eight times and assisting once.
His relationship with Messi was noteworthy, and he looked like the next big thing to emerge from La Masia. The academy that produced Messi as well as Andres Iniesta and Xavi, among countless others, viewed Fati as another proud achievement, and he began the 2020/21 season in similar fashion. He netted five goals and assisted two in just 10 games in all competitions for Barcelona at the start of the campaign, so what happened to him?
A season-ending injury
In essence, Fati's immense progression was halted in its tracks by a serious injury. Back in November 2020, after that electric start, Fati underwent surgery on a torn medial meniscus of his left knee, after he limped off at half-time in the Blaugrana's home win over Real Betis.
It was expected that Fati would return to action before the end of the season, but his recovery took far longer than initially expected. The Spanish international was side-lined for the rest of the 2020/21 campaign, meaning he was denied the chance to play with Messi for one last time.
Before the aforementioned injury, Fati was arguably Barcelona's most important player, perhaps even more so than Messi, who had a slow start to last campaign. Therefore, it's crucial he returns to fitness, although rushing him back would make things far worse.
However, Spanish journalist Alfredo Martinez has revealed that Fati is now back in full Barcelona training, and could return to action after the September international break.
Noticia importante Ansu Fati ya ha comenzado a hacer parte del trabajo con el grupo. Podría reaparecer tras el parón de selecciones !!— Alfredo Martínez (@Alfremartinezz) August 24, 2021
This will come as a great boost for Ronald Koeman, who will need to compete on multiple fronts once the Champions League gets kicked off once more. With Fati's ability to run in behind, something several Barcelona attackers don't have in their locker, it gives the Dutch coach another option when approaching attacking situations.
Still only 18 years old, Fati has a long career ahead of him, but it may take a few months before he's back to his electric best.