It’s been an incredible season for Barcelona boy wonder Ansu Fati, and Wednesday morning was the cherry on top.
Three minutes after being substituted onto the field in Barcelona’s Champions League clash with Inter, Fati rifled a shot into the bottom corner to secure a 2-1 win – and another slice of history.
At just 17 years and 40 days, Fati became the youngest goal scorer in Champions League history.
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“I played the give and go with Luis and when I scored the stadium just went silent. I’m super-happy!” Fati said.
“It’s a dream. Everything seems to be going at high speed. I just have to take every opportunity I’m given. But here, you look around and think: ‘what have I done’?”
Considering the number of records the teen sensation has broken this season, it’s no surprise he thinks everything is happening quickly.
In late August he became the second-youngest player to debut for Barcelona, aged 16 years and 298 days.
A week later (31 August) he scored his first professional goal, becoming Barcelona’s youngest-ever goalscorer and the third-youngest scorer in La Liga history.
In his first career start on 14 September, Fati became the youngest player in La Liga history to score and assist in the same match – doing so inside the first seven minutes of the match.
Three days later, Fati made his Champions League debut, becoming Barcelona’s youngest player in that competition’s history and the third-youngest Champions League player from any side.
Then came today, when Fati broke Inter Milan hearts with his first European goal and his third career goal from 12 senior appearances.
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Barca manager Ernesto Valverde was overjoyed at the performance of the youngster, saying “Ansu is a born scorer and although he’s had some niggling pain, we wanted him to have some minutes.
“That it’s a Barca lad who’s the youngest ever scorer in this competition delights us.”
HOW FAR CAN HE GO?
At 17 years and 40 days, Fati’s strike broke the record of former Olympiacos striker Peter Ofori-Quaye. The Ghanaian scored in the Champions League at the tender age of 17 years and 194 days old, all the way back in the 1997/98 season.
Ofori-Quaye never turned into the superstar many believed he was destined to become. Six years at Olympiacos and a 2000 Africa Cup of Nations appearance with Ghana was about as high as his career trajectory climbed.
But others on the Champions League’s list of youngest ever scorers have become world-class talents.
Third youngest is Mateo Kovacic (17 years, 215 days), the Croatian midfielder going on to represent Inter Milan, Real Madrid and now Chelsea – as well as his runner’s up medal at the 2018 World Cup.
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Fifth youngest is Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal’s youngest ever senior player. His CV includes a World Cup and two Euro Championships with Spain, a La Liga, two Premier League crowns, and a host of other domestic cups. Not bad.
Ninth youngest is Karim Benzema – one of the all-time deadliest Champions League strikers, and owner of a farcical four UCL winners medals. 60 goals in the competition, good enough for third all-time in the scoring charts, and there’s no wonder Real Madrid made the right choice in snapping up the French youngster from Lyon.
The rest of the top 20 includes names like Mbappe, Shevchenko, Kluivert, and Raul. Messi, for those wondering, has now been bumped down to 21st.
So will Fati become a legend, or end up an Ofori-Quaye? Who knows. So many young superstars burn out brightly, only to ply their trade in some European backwater league after failing at the highest level.
While Barcelona might not be buying into the hype, they’re certainly buying into his skyrocketing market value.
In recognition of the teen star’s immense potential, Barcelona earlier this month upgraded his contract to lock him down until 2022 with a two-year optional extension.
More importantly, the Catalan club slapped a massive buyout clause on his signature, hoping to ward off any potential poachers – or to cash in on his marketability and talent.
The club confirmed the teen’s buyout clause was increased from 100m euros ($A163m) to 170m euros ($A277m). All that for a bench player who is still technically part of Barcelona’s reserve side.
If – or when – Fati receives a professional contract with the first team, his buyout clause will rise to a whopping 400m euros ($A652m).
Compare that to the current world record fee of 222 million euros ($A362m) Barcelona received from Paris St-Germain in 2017, and Fati’s astounding worth becomes clear.
For now, the product of Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy is right to say he must “take every opportunity I’m given.”
If he does, more records are sure to fall.