Ansu Fati : The Messi's Legacy
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It has finally happened. The number 10 jersey has found a new owner after Lionel Messi has owned the number for 13 years since the 2008/09 season. Messi has taken the number from his predecessor, Ronaldinho, after the 2007/08 season after Ronaldinho left the club for AC Milan. It was finally Messi’s team now. But that seems like a distant memory and Ansu Fati will now be the new owner of the famous number 10 jersey.

 

            It’ll be a tough task for Fati to replicate the type of success that Messi was able to do while donning the number 10 jersey. Messi arguably was part of the best club side in recent memory that won the famous treble in 2009 and again in 2015. He has amassed a total of 34 trophies with Barcelona that includes 10 La Liga titles, 7 Copa del Rey, 7 Spanish Supercup, 4 UEFA Champions League, 3 UEFA Super Cup, and 3 FIFA Club World Cup.

 

            It’s only natural for Fati to be given the pressure by being handed the number 10 jersey, but is it fair? When it was finally Messi’s team and Guardiola built the team around Messi, it was arguably one of the greatest sides to ever play. Fati, however, is playing for a side that is in financial turmoil that became a laughingstock within the football community. Barcelona’s inability to put a respectable squad during Messi’s latter years with Barcelona was the beginning of their downfall by overpaying average players and recruiting star players that have yet to live up to the bill. It put a huge burden on Messi to carry the load to be competitive in La Liga and in the Champions League and ultimately was not able to sign a contract, even after taking a huge pay cut, due to Barcelona’s financial crisis.

 

            To put it into the perspective of what Fati is getting himself into in his first year as the number 10, he’s playing with the likes of Ter Stegen, Dest, Pique, Eric Garcia, and Alba in defense, Frenkie de Jong, Sergio Busquets, and Pedri in the midfield, and Memphis Depay, Coutinho, Braithwaite, and Aguero in the attack. While some of the players are world-class players by name, they are way past their primes now such as Pique, Alba, Busquets, and Aguero. In comparison, the players Messi was playing with were Valdes, Pique, Puyol, Dani Alves, and Eric Abidal in defense, Xavi, Iniesta, and Busquets in midfield, and Samuel Eto’o and Thierry Henry in the attack. Every one of them was in their prime except for Henry. So, it is unfair to have the same or even similar expectations for Fati as Messi when Fati dons the number 10 jersey now.

 

            Fati has all of the talents in the world and one can see how much Barcelona really thinks highly of the player by giving him the historic number 10 jersey at the tender age of 18. In his brief senior career with Barcelona, he’s already has made a big impact on the squad. His rise has allowed Barcelona to focus on what their main philosophy was during their glory days and that is to focus on bringing up academy players and only buy when necessary. Recently, Barcelona has gotten away from that approach and bought already made players that are either past their prime or players who are average but paid like superstars. Their famed La Masia produced some world-class players but recently hasn’t been able to produce any. And that may be the reason why Barcelona opted to buy players instead of nurturing the players from their academy. But Fati has given them hope, once again, and hopefully will produce results that’ll make Messi proud.

 

            Fati has already 11 senior goals to his name and that was even before he was 18. He scored 7 goals during his debut season in 2019/20 at the tender age of 16 and scored 4 the following season. During his debut season, he became the second-youngest player to debut for the club aged 16 years and 298 days. And 6 days later, he scored his first professional goal becoming Barcelona's senior team’s youngest ever goalscorer and the third youngest scorer in La Liga history. Things were expected more from him the next season in 20/21 with him officially promoted to the first team, but unfortunately, his season was cut short with a knee injury in November that sidelined him for the rest of the season.

 

            The Spanish striker is a different player than Messi, of course. Even though he’ll be wearing number 10 that was vacated by Messi, he’s more of a creative forward who’ll make those runs in behind the defense without the ball but also get his teammates involved with the ball. While he’s being utilized as a winger in the senior team to accommodate Messi, he’s more than capable of being deployed as a central striker as that’s where he played in the youth levels. He possesses excellent dribbling skills and technique that’s far beyond his years with his incredible finishing ability. It’ll be interesting to see when Fati makes the transition to become a natural striker and one can only hope it’s a similar transition that Messi went through. Because Messi came into the team when Eto’o and later on Ibrahimovic was the main striker and had to play out wide. But after those two were gone, Messi was positioned more centrally, not as a striker, but as a playmaker. So, it’ll be interesting to see how Fati’s position will change during his career and become more of a potent goal scorer down the line. His style is similar to David Villa making those diagonal runs and having that clinical finishing ability. Villa was the perfect striker for Messi as he didn’t need the ball and could make those runs behind the defense. Fati is a better dribbler than Villa, but he’ll also need some creative players in the midfield to feed him the ball now that Messi has left. Will it be Frenkie de Jong or Pedri? Someone will have to step up, otherwise, it’ll be hard to maximize Fati’s talent.

 

            Messi’s legacy will move on with Fati. The famed number 10 is in good hands, but the team is in bad shape. Fati has the potential and every ability to become the next Barcelona legend. Maybe not to the point of Messi’s level, but to put that much pressure on an 18-year-old is unfair no matter how high of a ceiling his potential is. The team will have to surround Fati with the players that’ll complement his game to maximize his potential just like how they were able to set Messi up for success.

 

Right now, it may seem like the dark days for Barcelona fans with Messi finally leaving the team but there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Two young bright Spanish stars in Fati and Pedri will have to carry the mantle that Messi has left them, and they are more than capable of holding their own and put Barcelona back to where they belong. It’ll be a long journey with plenty of ups and downs for the players and the club, but it’s not all lost. La Masia is back to producing potential stars into the senior squad and also getting rid of some financial dead weights during the transfer market.

 

There will never be another Messi. But Fati has the ability to create even more history with Barcelona and carry on Messi’s legacy and continue Barcelona’s success. Ronaldinho started the rise of Barcelona in the mid-2000s and Messi carried on his legacy from the late 2000s and into the 2010s. Fati, now, will take on the responsibility to carry Messi’s legacy into the 2020s. It won’t be pretty with the squad that’s assembled right now, but Fati is more than capable of handling that pressure and bring back the glory days of Barcelona once again.

 

 

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