You're STAYING: Barcelona tie teen Fati down with $468MN buy-out clause as prodigy pledges to learn from teammates including Messi
Barca have included a clause in the 17-year-old sensation's new contract, which also confirms his place in the senior squad for the first time, to prevent him from leaving for less than $468 million.
The protective stipulation in the four-year contract is similar to the agreement the club has with Messi, whose succession of contract extensions since he made his competitive debut in 2004 have increased his own release fee to more than $800 million.
Messi would almost certainly have left the club this summer had Barcelona not enforced his release clause.
Two days after winger Arturo Vidal left for Inter Milan, Fati will take the Chile international's vacated number 22 shirt ahead of a season that is likely to see him play a prominent role in Barcelona's bid to recapture the Liga title following a dismal 2019/20 season by their standards.
One of the players he could displace, Luis Suarez, made an emotional departure from the Camp Nou yesterday as one of a number of changes new manager Ronald Koeman is expected to oversee in his attempt to restore the club as a top force in Europe.
Fati could be Messi's successor should his progress continue at the phenomenal rate he showed in his debut campaign, when the Spain prospect send records tumbling in one of the few bright spots of a season without a trophy.
Those feats included becoming the second-youngest player in the club's history to be handed his full debut as a 16-year-old and, a week later, becoming their youngest goalscorer of all time.
The Blaugrana already had the clause in his youth team contract but have now increased the figure a club would need to pay for him by $269 million.
Their urgency will have been hastened by the 12 goals in 42 appearances he has already scored and his scintillating second appearance for Spain earlier this month, tormenting Ukraine on his way to becoming the youngest player to score for the national team in 95 years.
Previous owners of his new squad number have included Frank de Boer – the successor to new Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman as Netherlands manager – and Eric Abidal, Barca's former Director of Football who clashed with Messi and other players before being sacked shortly after the departure of beleaguered ex-boss Quique Setien last month.
Fati could feature in the league opener this Sunday at home to Villarreal, who he scored Barça's 9,000th competitive goal against in a 4-1 win in July.
Barcelona will be hoping that Fati will mirror Messi by proving a one-club man. The Guinea-Bissau-born wideman moved to Spain at the age of six and joined the club's 'La Masia' youth academy as a ten-year-old.
He became the youngest player to represent Barcelona in the Champions League more than a month before his 17th birthday, and is the youngest scorer in the history of the competition after striking in a 2-1 win at Inter in December.
Posing with his shirt at the club's headquarters, Fati declared: "It's a dream come true for any child of 'La Masia', from the first day you arrive here.
"I am very happy and my family are too. I am very excited. I want to improve every day, keep learning from my teammates.
"Every season is a challenge here at Barcelona. Am I am looking forward to everything."Also on rt.com Messi Mission Accomplished: Bartomeu finally destroys Barça, leaving Koeman to rebuild in post-Messi climate