Ansu Fati and Riqui Puig: Barcelona’s symbol of hope

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One of the most decorated clubs in world football, Barcelona have consistently won silverware in each of their campaigns since going trophyless in 2013-14.

However, times have changed and it seems Barcelona will end the present campaign without adding to their trophy cabinet.

The Catalan giants, who were knocked out of the Copa del Rey and the Spanish Super Cup earlier in the season, finished second behind arch-rivals, Real Madrid in the recently-concluded La Liga campaign.

Although they are still alive in the Champions League, having drawn 1-1 with Napoli in their Round of 16 first leg tie, very few would bet on Barcelona progressing far in the continental competition.

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Despite the team’s disastrous performances this season, two young players – Ansu Fati and Riqui Puig – along with the talismanic Lionel Messi have given the Barcelona faithful some hope for the future.

 Ansu Fati – Stunning debut campaign

Injuries to key players like Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele paved the way for La Masia graduate, Ansu Fati to feature for the club’s first team.

Ansu Fati became the second-youngest player ever (16 years and 298 days) to debut for Barcelona after coming on as a substitute in the 5-2 triumph over Real Betis in a La Liga fixture last August.

Since then, the teenager has made 32 appearances in all competitions for the Camp Nou outfit, scoring eight times and providing a solitary assist.

Seven of those goals and the assist came in La Liga, with Ansu Fati making 24 appearances in the Spanish top-flight, starting 11 times.

The Spanish Under-21 international became Barcelona’s youngest-ever goalscorer and the third-youngest to score a goal in La Liga after finding the back of the net in a 2-2 draw with Osasuna in late August.

Besides breaking other records, Ansu Fati became the youngest player to score in the Champions League after netting the winner in Barcelona’s 2-1 win over Inter Milan in December.

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Contrary to the belief of youngsters having cold feet while playing at the Camp Nou, the 17-year-old has looked confident with each touch of the ball in every game.

He has been clinical in front of goal and has tormented defenders on the left flank with his quick and pacey movements, providing the much-needed width and pace in Barcelona’s attack.

During the Catalan giants’ last La Liga match of the season against Alaves, Ansu Fati latched onto a cross from Lionel Messi and scored the opener, thus showcasing his maturity.

The teenager has also shown an impressive amount of composure, temperament and clarity of mind in tight spaces, despite his tender age.

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Senior Barcelona players and the board have been supportive of the youngster throughout the season, and although he still has a long way to go, Ansu Fati possesses the promise and talent to bring the glory days back to the Camp Nou.

 Riqui Puig – Next Andres Iniesta?

Riqui Puig is another product of the famous La Masia academy. Filled with the Barca DNA, Puig has proved himself to be an integral part of the team at a young age of 20.

Puig made his La Liga debut against Huesca last season but has featured more prominently for Barcelona in 2019-20, making 12 appearances across all competitions.

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Insightful passing, comfortable on the ball and being cool in pressure situations have earned him plaudits from the ever so critical Barcelona fans.

His performances have oozed pure confidence and energy, which the ageing midfielders of Barcelona lacked. Much like Camp Nou legend Andres Iniesta, his stats are insignificant in comparison to the impact he provides in each game.

Riqui Puig has often been compared to the World Cup winner and is hence nicknamed – Riquiniesta.

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Although it is right to remark that Riqui Puig, who provided two assists in La Liga in 2019-20, still has a lot to prove at Barcelona, if he manages to maintain his performances, Barcelona might just find their next Iniesta.

Also Read: Liverpool’s biggest lift in 30 years

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