World Football

Analysis: Why Ansu Fati can make the No 10 jersey his own at Barcelona

Sudesh Baniya

September 17 2021
Ansu Fati

The 18-year-old will wear the iconic shirt following Lionel Messi’s transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.

After an unprecedented turn of events, Barcelona lost the long-standing holder of the No. 10 jersey, Lionel Messi due to dire financial conditions. While the situation has made the Catalan side lose out on the best player in their history, it has also called for a complete reset. The No. 10 jersey remained the most discussed void before Barcelona handed it to another La Masia product, who has more or less travelled the same route as Messi through the ranks. Joan Laporta and Co. chose 18-year-old Ansu Fati as the heir.

At this point in time, it has become clearer than ever that Messi’s legacy at the club will be invincible, at least for a couple of decades to come. However, Barcelona and football fans have agreed to the fact that if there’s someone, who can come close to filling his boots, it has to be Fati.

So, what makes the Guinea-Bissau native so special? Can Ansu Fati become the next talisman of the Blaugrana? Ca he make Barcelona’s No. 10 jersey his own? Let’s explore some factors that support this notion.

The ideal head-start

If there was any positive to take out from Ernesto Valverde’s last season at Barcelona, it was the fast-tracking of Ansu Fati into the first-team. The youngster is yet to play for Barca B – he was called up from the U19 side directly. He has already made 43 senior team appearances ever since and 31 of them have been in the Spanish top flight.

At such a young age, Fati has been able to impact La Liga with 11 goals so far. It was due to his impressive braces that Barcelona overcame Levante and Villareal in separate stretches of the previous campaign. With a budding midfielder, Pedri, blooming at the heart of the pitch, it will be helpful for Fati to make a name of his own wearing the No. 10 shirt.

A versatile attacker

Anyone that has kept an eye on the 18-year-old Fati will agree that his abilities transcend his age. At a tender age, he has the tools required to be a complete and versatile attacker. The Spanish international clearly prefers the left flank and is able to operate as an out-and-out dribbling winger, an effective crosser and a finisher from in and outside the box. Fati’s ability to move and finish has made him start as a center-forward on five occasions so far.

In addition, he is a vertical player, who can add directness while the team is in possession. For a side struggling in recent times to break and transition, his abilities have, and will, come in handy. Having Memphis Depay in the team will complement his diverse skill-set after he comes back in October.

Attributes that match Messi

Despite donning the No. 10 jersey, Ansu Fati is stylistically different compared to his predecessor Lionel Messi. As a player, who relies on his pace and quick movement to create space, Fati likes to start from the left and skews his play around the left half-space. On the other hand, Messi’s operation would largely be around the zone 14 areas and in a calmer fashion.

However, statistically, there are certain blueprints of the two’s contributions. Fati has averaged 2.44 key passes per 90, keeping him in the 91st percentile among Europe’s elites. Like Messi, he is involved in providing key passes and producing assists. Fati averages 0.30 assists per 90 – better than 98% of wingers and attacking midfielders in Europe’s top five leagues.

In addition, Fati’s goal and shot-creating actions are in the same niche as Messi’s. Averaging 5.33 and 1.07 goal-creating and shot-creating actions per 90 respectively, he is more often involved than not. Most of these come from live passes, drawn fouls and dribbles just like Messi’s. All of these make him a well-suited individual around whom Barcelona will look to build a team.

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