At the start of Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona revolution, just two games in no less, there’s been one standout performer – and he’s not even an adult until Halloween.
Ansu Fati, the 17-year-old star who broke into the first-team last summer – scoring on his second appearance against Osasuna – continues to impress in a Barca shirt and scored the opener in the 3-0 victory at Celta Vigo on Thursday night.
Having been linked throughout the summer with a move to Manchester United, the Spaniard signed a five-year contract last month with a staggering £367million release clause. Not that it seems to have placed a burden on him.
Ansu Fati scored his third goal in two games during Barcelona’s 3-0 win against Celta Vigo
The 17-year-old scored a brace in Barca’s season opener against Villarreal on Sunday night
Ansu Fati scoring again for Barcelona last night to get his 10th league goal.
It means he only needs one more league goal before October 31st to become the player with most goals in LaLiga before turning 18.
Looks some talent ¿¿
— Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) October 2, 2020
In fact, quite the opposite – the long-term stability has unleashed Fati. He scored a brace in the Catalans’ season-opener against Villarreal, his first an emphatic finish into the roof of the net and his second a composed strike at the near-post.
Similarly, against Celta, his first touch with his left-foot was exquisite, taking the ball away from the onrushing defender and poking home accurately.
Out of all his attributes – speed, skill, maturity – that accuracy in front of goal is perhaps his most valuable asset. A clinical edge, at such a tender age, is strikingly impressive.
Since making his debut on August 25 2019, Fati’s goals to shots on target ratio is the best in Europe’s top five leagues. The 17-year-old is top of the tree.
That’s 11 goals from 17 shots on target, a ratio of 63.7 per cent. Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is in second, eight per cent behind, while Jamie Vardy, Ciro Immobile and Romelu Lukaku are the only other forwards with a 50 per cent plus ratio.
UEFA Men’s Player of the Year and Champions League winner Robert Lewandowski is sixth on the list on 47.2 per cent, while Lionel Messi is way down the list on 32.7 per cent.
Fati’s goals to shots on target ratio is better than Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski
Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is also behind the 17-year-old Barcelona ace
Already, despite just being 17 years of age, Fati is leading the statistics at the top of the European game. Forget the future – he is currently Barca’s shining light amid a turbulent period for the club.
Koeman made no friends in his early weeks at the Nou Camp, ditching Luis Suarez and very nearly losing club legend Messi, before his transfer U-turn.
Yet Fati, undeterred playing under his third manager in a year following the spells of Ernesto Valverde and Quique Setien, has been a symbol of the new era at the Nou Camp.
‘His progress has been enormous,’ Koeman said of Fati, following his opening weekend double.
Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman has been full of praise for Fati’s performances thus far
‘And we have benefited from that. He keeps proving his worth and we are confident he will keeping developing.’
The 17-year-old is also fifth on the list overall of goals per shots taken, since his first-team debut, with 11 goals from his 47 shots at goal.
And again, he is way ahead of skipper Messi, who despite his prolific strike-rate has scored 32 times from a mass 210 shots.
So, with Messi set to leave next summer and a contract renewal highly unlikely at this point, should Barca be overly-worried?
Fati’s accuracy stats are better than Lionel Messi’s, is he the Argentine’s obvious replacement?
Of course, Messi is one of the greatest players of all-time, but at 33 he is coming towards the end of his prime period. So the more pertinent question should be – is Fati an adequate heir?
Well, if you compare Messi’s first year or so in the first-team, he was not nearly as clinical as Fati. The Spanish international’s 11 goals before the age of 18 – his birthday is on October 31 – compare to Messi’s sole strike at 17 and that now-famous chip against Albacete in 2005.
Fati was not even two years old when Messi made his Barca debut back in 2004, and recently recalled a childhood looking up to the six-times world player of the year and said the Argentinean was helping him improve.
‘Playing with Messi is a dream I had since I was a child and now I am living it,’ the forward told reporters.
Fati has been impressive in front of goal and his teenage stats are better than that of Messi’s
The Barcelona wonderkid said he is learning a lot from club captain Messi at the Nou Camp
‘He gives me a lot of advice, he helps me a lot on the pitch and in training, but away from it too, and that makes me very happy.’
Playing alongside his hero, at one of the biggest clubs in world football, and thus far outshining him. He also made his senior Spain debut last month and was called-up again by Luis Enrique on Friday for the forthcoming internationals. All the signs for Fati’s long-term future are tantalisingly exciting.
Right now though, Fati is in a rich vein of form, the first of what will surely be many throughout his sure-to-be lethal career. Sunday’s opponents, Sevilla, better watch out.