31 appearances, 1,126 minutes, 9 starts and just two full matches. Ansu Fati has played in every single Barcelona game this season but averages just over 36 minutes per appearance this season.
In total he has six goals in that time and 3 assists, a goal contribution every 125 minutes. A reasonable average. Given the lack of rhythm, it is understandable that Fati is supposedly frustrated with his lack of starts at Barcelona.
The 20-year-old forward spent almost the entirety of last season out of action with knee problems, neglecting surgery in the final instance to try a different method of recovery. But it is also true that he hasn’t looked the same this season, lacking the same burst of pace, ability to beat players and at points, just rusty. Equally, as is his talent, Ansu has come up with moments of brilliance against Real Sociedad, Real Betis and Real Madrid.
Questions are starting to be raised about his future though, with some wondering if he will ever get back to his previous level. Whether Barcelona should try to cash in or keep faith in Ansu is a topic that divides fans.
Sport say that Barcelona do not intend to sell Fati. Yet in the case of Ansu requesting an exit, they would put him on the market. Given his continued struggles to get a run in the team, it sounds less far-fetched than it did just a few months ago.
In many ways, the rust is understandable. Rarely starting games in succession and even more infrequently completing games, there is an argument to say that nine months on from his recovery, he is still not match fit.
How exactly he gets either a run in the team or that match fitness seems an unsolvable riddle. Barcelona are in need of success and Xavi Hernandez must deliver results this season, meaning that keeping faith players not producing results is not an option. In addition, Barcelona have looked noticeably better since switching to a system with four midfielders, using one of Gavi or Pedri further forward rather than a left-sided forward. It is Fati’s only viable position in a 4-3-3 currently and it no longer exists.
Short of further injuries, it is hard to see where he gets his chance. Unless he can start producing big performances off the bench and in smaller games, demanding a spot in the Barcelona attack through goals and assists, then he will be in a similar role until the end of the season. Not to mention the fact Ferran Torres is competing for the same opportunities as Fati.
Xavi Hernandez continues to insist that Ansu is part of his plans and they have faith he will come back to his best, but increasingly, it looks as if he may have to try his fortunes elsewhere in order to get a shot back in the first team.
If he moves, Fati will have to adapt to a different culture, a less kind environment (for young La Masia products, most of the time Camp Nou is cauldron of criticism), the and likely a side less invested in his personal success.
It’s cold away from the spotlight of Camp Nou, but Ansu is currently in a Catch 22 in Barcelona. Without games, he looks unlikely to get back to his best. In this current Barcelona, only the best Ansu will get those games. Whichever decision he makes, it will be a bold and potentially decisive one for his career.
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