Ansu Fati strolled onto the pitch in the inherited number 10 jersey and proceeded to earn his place in the big shoes he is meant to fill. Playing in the number of what many consider to be the greatest player the sport has ever had, Lionel Messi, is no small feat. The pressure to be playing for a team like FC Barcelona alone is enough to make most 18-year olds, which is Fati’s unbelievably young age, shake in their spiked football boots – but to do so wearing the number of the greatest of all time is a whole different level of expectation.
Yet Fati managed to meet that unreasonably high bar, scoring only moments after running on to the pitch as a substitute at the 80th-minute mark. To make the triumphant moment all the giddier, Fati had spent 323 days of the last year in recovery from an injury. The goal brought FC Barcelona to a 3-0 victory over their La Liga opponents Levante on Sunday.
Walking onto the grass of FC Barcelona’s home stadium Camp Nou, Fati received ecstatic applause which the teenager welcomed with a wide and joyful smile. In a post-match interview, the footballer commented on his return, “I never expected a comeback like that” I’m so happy. I want to thank the medical staff, the doctors, the physios, who have been there for me all the way. And all the fans, who have given me so much support. It is an honor to wear number 10 after Messi. I am so grateful to the club and captains for letting me wear it.”
Without Messi, this year’s FC Barcelona team has struggled to maintain their usual supremacy, many fans of the team hope that Fati’s triumphant return is an omen of things to come and a return to the top spot in the league.