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26 Aug, 2019 11:45

Ansu Fati: Meet the starlet hugged by Messi after becoming youngest Barca league player in 80 years

Ansu Fati: Meet the starlet hugged by Messi after becoming youngest Barca league player in 80 years

Ansu Fati has set the football world abuzz after becoming Barcelona’s second youngest La Liga player ever in Sunday's game against Real Betis – but who is the starlet who seems destined for the top at the Spanish giants?

Fati, 16, replaced Carles Perez in the 78th minute of Barca’s 5-2 win at the Nou Camp, making him the club’s youngest player to feature in the league since Vicente Martínez Alama 78 years ago.

READ MORE: Glittering Griezmann nets double including stunning second as Barca beat Real Betis

The Guinea-Bissau-born forward almost capped his debut with a goal, dragging a shot wide on 86 minutes.

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His magical night got even better after the final whistle when he was met in the tunnel by a beaming Messi, who gave the youngster a warm embrace in an image the Barca skipper later shared on Instagram – where it quickly racked up almost 5 million likes.

"Great performance from everyone,” Messi wrote alongside the image, also sharing a picture of fellow academy graduate Perez, 21, who scored his first senior goal for the club.

“First three points in La Liga and really happy to see our academy players achieve their dream of making the first team and scoring in a competitive game at the Camp Nou.”

Barcelona commented on the image, writing “the present and the future,” while La Liga replied “the king and the kid.”

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Fati joined Barcelona as a 10-year-old in 2013, and has been labelled by the Spanish media as “the latest jewel in the Barcelona academy.”

His father revealed after Sunday's game that Real Madrid and Sevilla had also been chasing his son's signature at the age of nine, but that Barcelona officials had convinced him that following in the footsteps of the likes of Messi was the way to go.  

Fati is said to have dazzled his coaches at every level in the Barca youth ranks, and was called into the senior squad by boss Ernesto Valverde last week after injuries to Messi and fellow forwards Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele. 

In emerging from the fabled La Masia ranks to earn a first-team call-up, he joins the likes of past club legends Pep Guardiola, Xavi, and Andres Iniesta, and current stars Messi and Sergio Busquets.   

Earlier this summer, Fati penned a new deal at Barcelona which runs until 2022, and marked the occasion by sharing a family picture with his Instagram followers.

Before earning a first-team call-up Fati had worked under goalkeeping great Victor Valdes in the Juvenil A team as well as in the Barcelona B side.

Barca marked his first senior appearance on Sunday by sharing a compilation of his goals in the youth ranks, including spectacular overhead kicks but also poacher’s finishes which demonstrate an acute awareness for where the goal is from anywhere in and around the box.  

Fati’s own social media account shows a clear football focus, with action shots and pictures with teammates, although there are also holiday snaps with friends and hints at a love of designer gear and rapper Drake.   

While he will likely return to the lower ranks at Barca once Messi and Co have come back from injury, he has already caught the eye with his cameo on Sunday and could feature again this weekend at Osasuna.  

And after all, a hug of approval from club legend Messi isn’t a bad way to start life as a senior pro.

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