With their season teetering on collapse, Barcelona must turn to 17-year-old Ansu Fati with Napoli and Real Madrid looming on the horizon.
After a string of injuries to first-team players in recent weeks, the news emerging from Catalonia was that Ousmane Dembele will now miss the rest of the season after tearing his hamstring in training.
Three points behind Real Madrid in the La Liga title race, journalist Dermot Corrigan told Off The Ball that Barcelona will need to rely on Ansu Fati.
“He’s a super talented kid. He took his goals really well at the weekend.
“He’d maybe gone off the boil over the last couple of months. Like when he arrived on the scene in September and scored that goal against Osasuna everyone was like, ‘this is amazing,’” he said.
Quique Setién has been more receptive to playing Ansu Fati than his predecessor Ernesto Valverde but Corrigan thinks that could be down to the injuries to players like Luis Suarez.
“He is clearly a guy for the future. They don’t want to burn him out because he is so young and physically he’s still growing and maturing.
“His connection with Messi is really good, he set up both of his goals at the weekend. You can see that with Messi sometimes when players come into the team you wonder whether Messi rates them or not.
“Sometimes you wonder why isn’t he passing it to players like Dembele or Coutinho whereas, with Ansu Fati, you get the feeling that he is looking to put him into position, that he trusts him,” he said.
That is not the only connection that Messi has with Ansu Fati though, Corrigan explains that Messi’s brother is his agent.
“They have earmarked this guy as someone who is the real deal.
“It’s asking a lot of him to win games at the minute, and to rely on him in the Champions League with all the injuries, but in the long term he’s the best player to come out of La Masia you could say maybe since Messi,” Corrigan said.