There are so many factors that can derail a young career. A year lost due to injury, a failed change of position; there are a ton of different issues that can turn a future superstar into an amateur footballer. On the other hand, some players deal with adversity with great success and look like can’t-miss prospects from day one. A good example of the latter is Juvenil A’s Anssumane Fati, who has gone from younger brother of a player with potential to one of the brightest talents in not just La Masia, but all of youth football.
Anssumane Fati, Ansu for short, was born October 31, 2002 in Guinea-Bissau. His family moved to Herrera, Seville three years after his birth and his older brother Braima was soon discovered by Sevilla. While Braimi played for Sevilla’s youth teams, Ansu started his career with Escuela de Fútbol Peloteros Sevilla. Sevilla brought Ansu to join his brother three years later and before long the Fati boys were being scouted by Barcelona.
The duo joined La Masia in 2012 and while his age would have placed him with the Alevín B, Ansu instead hooked up with Japanese play-maker Takefuso Kubo for Alevín A. This trend of playing with older talents has continued throughout his days at La Masia.
He scored 56 goals in 29 league games in his first season in Catalonia, helping the Alevín A to the league title. Playing all across the attack, including as a central and attacking midfielder, Ansu’s attacking prowess has continued to excel as rapidly as his body has grown.
In December of 2015, while playing for the Infantil A, he was fouled hard while playing against Espanyol and broke the tibia and fibula in his right leg. The devastating injury came shortly after he had returned from an absence away from the club due to the FIFA ban. Fati did not suffer the same fate as Kubo, but he was investigated and could not practice with his teammates for a brief time. The injury, however, kept the promising player on the sidelines for ten months and might have derailed the career of another player in his position.
Instead, Fati came back as strong as ever and other big clubs came calling. One year after his injury, Manchester City reportedly pushed hard for the player but were rebuffed by both Fati and Nico González. Fati responded to Barcelona’s faith in him by continuing his ascent through the ranks, starring at Juvenil B from both the wing and as a striker.
This season the 16-year-old has made the jump to Juvenil A and hasn’t missed a beat. The youngest player officially on the Juvenil A roster (Nico González, José Martínez and Pol Tristán are all a few months older), he has made his presence felt alongside the senior Alejandro Marqués, Konrad de la Fuente, Sergi Serrano and Nils Mortimer in attack. In fact, he has been leading the scoring as some of the others get called up to the Barcelona B bench.
He is also making a name for himself in the UEFA Youth League this season, playing six times with one goal and two assists. He played as a centre-forward for the first three games of the campaign, coming off the bench for all three. On the second go-around against each group stage opponent, he got the start on the left wing for all three of those matches with his two assists coming against Inter Milan in the 2-0 win and his goal being the lone Barcelona tally in the 1-1 draw with PSV.
For all the youth accolades of Ansu Fati, his brother isn’t seeing the same success. The now 20-year-old Braimi Fati hasn’t been able to replicate the success of his youth with loans to CE Sabadell, Patro Eisden in Belgium and currently with FC Vilafranca in the fourth level of Spanish football. Braimi’s contract with the club runs through the end of the season, so there is a firm possibility that he moves on for the betterment of his career. Without the promise of seeing his older return to Barcelona, it will be interesting to see how the independence affects Ansu, even though his brother has been out on loan since August of 2017.
Ansu Fati has always played with boys older than him and it won’t be long until he is playing with men older than him. So far, he has conquered every challenge in front of him. He has dealt with serious injury, an absence due to bureaucracy and is still very much in the race for the Juvenil A Pichichi despite being younger than his competition. His ability to excel as either a centre-forward and left-winger will benefit him and provides coaches with more ways to get him into a game. He may be a few years away from the first team, but 16-year-old Ansu Fati looks to be well on his way.