Football

Barcelona starlet Ansu Fati learning from idol Lionel Messi

Wonderkid says he is living the dream after leading Catalan side to victory

Barcelona wonderkid Ansu Fati said he is learning from superstar Lionel Messi, after firing his side to a 4-0 win over Villarreal in their first game of the La Liga season yesterday morning (Singapore time).

With all the pre-match build-up centring on Messi's anger at the club's decision to force Luis Suarez out to Atletico Madrid, the 17-year-old Fati stole the show by giving Barca an early advantage with two expertly taken finishes in the opening 20 minutes.

Fati, who was not even two years old when Messi made his Barca debut back in 2004, recalled a childhood looking up to the six-time Ballon d'Or winner and said the Argentinian was helping him improve.

"Playing with Messi is a dream I had since I was a child and now I am living it," he said.

"He gives me a lot of advice, he helps me a lot on the pitch and in training, but away from it too, and that makes me very happy."

Fati burst on to the scene last season when he became Barca's youngest ever league goalscorer and looks to be on the path to even greater things, with far more opportunities on the horizon this campaign due to Suarez's departure.

"I want to keep improving every day, to continue to learn from my teammates because they are the best around and they are trying to help me," said the Spain international.

Barca coach Ronald Koeman revealed he had admonished Fati for his performance in the team's last pre-season game against Elche, but praised his movement and clinical finishing against Villarreal.

"I had criticised him against Elche but, today, I told him he had a great game. He was very direct and we made the most of his quality," said the Dutchman.

"He's a young player who has to look to perform consistently and he showed he has a great future and I'm so happy today."

Teammate Sergio Busquets added: "We need to keep calm, but we know what facets he's got. They're tremendous. We need to let him play his football."

Meanwhile, Suarez may have left the Nou Camp on a bitter note on Friday, but he has started his Atletico career on a high, after bagging a brace and an assist in his side's 6-1 victory over Granada on Sunday.

It even prompted fellow striker Diego Costa to speak cheekily of a fruitful partnership.

"He is very good, one of us can do the fighting and the other can do the biting," Costa said, recalling Suarez's infamous bite on Italy's Giorgio Chiellini in the 2014 World Cup.

The Uruguay striker, who scored 198 goals in six seasons with Barca, also committed similar offences for Liverpool and Ajax Amsterdam.

"We are very lucky to have Luis, I don't understand how Barca could have let him leave," Costa added.

"He's going to help us with lots of goals as well as his warrior spirit and his hunger to win trophies." - REUTERS

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