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A LOOK AT LA LIGA

Emerging from the shadows

Ansu Fati celebrates his goal against Ukraine on Sunday.
Ansu Fati celebrates his goal against Ukraine on Sunday. / Reuters
  • The Messi circus may have taken all the attention these past weeks but one man is showing that Barcelona could already have their heir apparent

The King of Catalonia may not have abdicated but the Prince has been anointed and is clearly ready for the accession.

Lionel Messi grabbed most of the headlines and media spotlight by teasing Barcelona for the short summer recess as his successor showed that he's ready to step up to the throne. As most of football's royal-watchers were trained on the Argentinian, a young man from Guinea-Bissau was adding another line to his credentials.

We've known about Ansu Fati for a while. He became Barcelona's youngest ever scorer at the age of 16 years and 304 days last August. He continued to tick off accomplishments as the season progressed. Youngest ever scorer in the Champions League with a winner at the San Siro against Inter MIlan; youngest to score a Liga double; youngest to get sent off in the Catalan derby against Espanyol.

The Messi saga provided a smokescreen for the phenomenal achievements of an incredibly talented footballer who doesn't turn 18 until October. As the press were distracted by Messi-mania, he made his debut as a substitute against Germany. As the fuss lessened, he exploded onto the international scene by winning a penalty within two minutes of his full debut against Ukraine. He topped it off by becoming Spain's youngest ever scorer in a 3-1 win.

History is repeating itself. When Messi arrived onto the scene in 2005, Ronaldinho was in his prime years. Messi had to be accommodated. Patiently he took over the role as superstar. A decade and a half later we have the same situation.

Luis Suárez has left the building and there have been noises about Memphis Depay jetting in from Lyon to take his place. This is problematic for two reasons. Firstly, Barca don't have the finances and secondly, they have bought badly for a number of years.

Fati needs to be given his opportunity. Let him spread his wings and play with joy. He'll speed up a growingly pedantic approach and this could benefit Antoine Griezmann who didn't hit the ground running. It was more of a hop.

With Fati's exciting inclusion, Barça will be more forthright and less dependent on Messi. Although he's emerging a leading talent, he's still pretty much unknown and the opposition will need to work him out. If, or should I say when, he tires or needs a rest, Ousmane Dembélé can be given a chance to express himself.

The other upside is that Fati is a graduate of the club's academy. He was fast-tracked straight from the youth team to the first team, missing out the development stage or loan to a lesser club. The downside is that he's only tied to Barcelona until 2022 and the buy-out is €170m. He also has the super-agent Jorge Mendes as his advisor.

Behind the scenes they will be thrashing out a deal which I guarantee doesn't include a clause that he can just walk away on a free transfer on a whim.