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Ansu Fati's First Coach Hails Barcelona Prodigy, 'Never Seen Anything Like Him'

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistAugust 27, 2019

BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 25: Ansu Fati of FC Barcelona during the La Liga Santander  match between FC Barcelona v Real Betis Sevilla at the Camp Nou on August 25, 2019 in Barcelona Spain (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Ansu Fati became the youngest player since 1941 to debut for Barcelona on Sunday, and the winger's first coach, Jose Luis Perez Mena, has said he's "never seen anything like" the record-breaking talent.

Fati came on as a substitute at the Camp Nou, where Barca came from behind to beat Real Betis 5-2 in their first home game of the season. Aged 16 years and 298 days, it made him the youngest player to play for the club since Vicente Martinez Alama—who was 18 days younger when he made his debut 78 years ago.

Perez Mena acts as director of the Herrera football academy in Seville, Spain, and he told EFE (h/t AS) about the unique potential Fati possesses:

"Before the game, when I spoke to him, he wasn't even nervous. In Guinea he was used to playing with balls made of rags, but when he got a real ball for the first time it was incredible to see him.

"I've been in the football game for 50 years and I've never seen anything like him. He's got huge personality, he doesn't fear anyone and you only need to see him on the pitch to see that."

Fati was born in Bissau, the capital of Guinea Bissau, but moved to Spain with his family as a boy. He joined the Herrera academy before moving into the youth setup of Sevilla and eventually Barca in 2012.

La Masia is one of the most respected youth academies in European football, which looks to have another budding superstar among its ranks:

B/R Football @brfootball

Barcelona's latest teenage debutant, Ansu Fati, is following in the footsteps of greatness 🔵🔴✨ https://t.co/L9V1l3afYI

Former Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes was appointed coach of Barcelona Juvenil A team this season. He recently detailed an encounter with Fati that illustrated further the youngster's humble attitude and modest means.

Despite playing at one of the biggest clubs in the world, Fati's boots were in a ragged condition and causing him pain during a recent youth tournament in Russia. Valdes spoke at a press conference and detailed the incident, which ended with him taking the youngster to get a new pair:

"I told him to bring me his boots and they were a complete disaster, they were causing him pain. Nobody had thought it could be the boots, but I did. We went to buy some new ones.

"He's strong, quick and self-confident. You have to give this kind of talent freedom so that he flows. I'm so happy for him, he called me this morning and it made me very excited.

"I'm thankful to Valverde for giving him some minutes. His performance didn't surprise me. He represents hard work. He has the soul of an elite player and he's a predator in the box."

The teenager played only 12 minutes against Betis but is sure to cherish such a landmark moment in his career. Club icon—and now team-mate—Lionel Messi was on hand to congratulate him, per BT Sport:

Football on BT Sport @btsportfootball

That feeling when you become the youngest Barcelona player since 1941 🙌 Lionel Messi hugged 16-year-old Ansu Fati after the game... https://t.co/NVA9tS8f2r

Although the masses are only just finding out about Fati's potential, the Blaugrana have been aware of the talent rising among their ranks for some time, via Goal:

Goal @goal

16-year-old Ansu Fati made his Barcelona debut last night 🙌 This is why people at La Masia have been speaking about him for so long 🔥 https://t.co/ztNysMZn2O

Perez Mena spent only one year with Fati at Herrera, and it says a lot that the player was able to make such a strong impression in such a short space of time.

Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde clearly took enough notice to induct the prospect into his first-team squad, with Fati yet to even make an appearances for the club's reserves.

La Liga's defending champions travel to Osasuna on Saturday before the international break, and Fati will surely look forward to more minutes after getting his first taste of senior action at Barca.