Barcelona head coach Xavi labelled Ansu Fati a “special player” after handing the 19-year-old his first league appearance since November in a 2-1 win over Real Mallorca.
Fati entered the fray as a 75th-minute substitute as the Blaugrana recorded a crucial win in their bid to secure Champions League qualification, as goals from Memphis Depay and Sergio Busquets moved Barca into second place in LaLiga, nine points clear of fifth-placed Real Betis.
Fati has recorded 14 goals and one assist in 37 appearances in LaLiga since making his Barca debut in 2019, but he has suffered an injury-plagued campaign and went over five months without making a league appearance prior to his comeback.
Speaking after the youngster’s return to the pitch, Xavi lauded Fati’s ability and said it was a “shame” the Catalan giants had been without him for the majority of the season.
“He is very happy to be with the group,” Xavi said. “Little by little, he needs competition rhythm. Training is not the same as participating in a match and he needs time.
“Ansu is a special player. You see him in training. He has made an effort to be with us.
“I have tried him as a number nine [in this match] so that he was close to the area, and because he is not yet ready to do many one-on-ones.
“It’s a shame that we haven’t had him these months because I’m sure he would have helped us. I’m very happy for him.”
what a beautiful sight pic.twitter.com/OB8OwKGy28
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) May 1, 2022
Although Fati’s 15-minute cameo in Barcelona’s fifth win in seven LaLiga games (two defeats) was welcome news, the Blaugrana lost defender Gerard Pique to injury in the first-half, and Xavi said his former team-mate had been playing through the pain barrier to help Barca’s push for a top-four finish.
“Today he told me that he was very well, but in the 10th minute he felt discomfort again. He is making a super effort for the team, he is super involved but the pain is there,” Xavi added.
“In the 25th minute, he told me that he couldn’t give any more and it was difficult for him to run.
“Let’s see how it is this week. Pique is very important because of his ball output, his size, his set piece [threat] and the leadership he gives to the group.”
Barcelona face top-four rivals Real Betis in their next league outing on Saturday, and could mathematically confirm Champions League qualification with a win in that contest if Betis fail to win at Getafe on Monday.
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