FATI BOOM BOOM Man Utd target Ansu Fati is the heir to Lionel Messi’s throne, and youngest player ever to score twice in a LaLiga game
The name on Barcelona’s die-hard fans isn’t their mercurial son Messi anymore.
They have a new one, and he comes in the shape of a slight and skinny 17-year-old kid from the West African country of Bissau-Guinea.
Ansu Fati has exploded onto the scene at one of the world’s most famous clubs, netting twice against Levante in a 2-1 win earlier in 2020 – making him the youngest player to net twice in a La Liga game.
The heir to Messi’s throne, he also became Barcelona’s youngest ever goalscorer when he jumped off the bench to net against Osasuna in LaLiga at the end of August.
Then, back in September he made history again as Barcelona’s youngest debutant in a Champions League tie.
It’s no wonder the Spanish champions have a £144million release clause in Fati’s contract to protect their new asset.
Not that it stopped Manchester United trying their luck, with a reported £89m bid turned down by Barca’s president in June.
A FOOTBALLERS’ SON
Ansu’s dad Bori Fati had his own footballing aspirations.
In his native country of Bissau-Guinea he played professionally, before the family emigrated to Portugal.
There Bori set up some amateur teams in the lower leagues until he read a story of an Andalusian town called Marinaleda, near Seville, that was offering work to immigrants.
He moved in 2001, but found life tough – begging for food on the streets until a chance encounter with the mayor scored him a job as a limo driver.
The family settled in Herrera, a nearby town, where Ansu would later train as a kid with CDF Herrera and Sevilla FC.
BORN TO PLAY
Unknown to his dad, Ansu was a natural-born talent.
“I didn’t know he was any good at football,” Bori told Spanish radio station La Cope.
“Ansu would ask me everyday, ‘Papa, take me to play football’.
“In the end, I got tired of him asking me and I took him along and left him at the municipal pitches. I said, ‘When you get tired, come home’.
“I had to go to work but that night I got home and there were people crowded at my front door and they said to me, ‘Fati, do you know what you have got here?’ I said, ‘No’. I had no idea.
‘They said, ‘Tomorrow bring Ansu to the football pitches and you will see him play’.
“When I went the next day I saw him dribbling past all the others it was him against everyone else.”
A JEWEL AT SEVILLA
By the age of eight, Ansu was already training with LaLiga giants Sevilla, while playing with his local club Escuela Peloteros de Herrera – who he led to the Under-8 title.
But it was impossible for Sevilla to keep a boy with such talent out of the clutches of Real Madrid or Barcelona.
Before long, heads of both academies were making regular trips to Ansu’s home, and it was Los Blancos who made the first move by offering the family a mansion in Madrid, as well as a cash incentive to sign on the dotted line.
However, because their Valdebebas training ground had no on-site residencies for young boys, the Fati family weren’t convinced it was the right move for their son.
ALBERT PUIG CHANGED IT ALL
Puig, now manager at Japanese side Albirex Niigata, was formerly Barça’s youth football coordinator.
Like Real Madrid’s Academy director Paco de Gracia, he would often visit the Fati family to talk football and ask about Ansu’s progress.
And he was able to offer them exactly what they wanted.
“He [Puig] came to my house and sat in my front room and we said that we would think about it and talk about a contract the next day, but he said, ‘No we have the contract here now’,” Bori told Cope.
Sevilla were understandably enraged, and their Sporting Director Monchi tried to offer the family a counter-deal but it was too late.
Furious with his decision, Sevilla stopped playing Fati in games, which ironically forced him to play for a club ran by a Sevilla-based Real Madrid fan club called Sextacampeones de Herrera.