NxGn powered by Mastercard | Overcoming war, poverty and injury to become the youngest scorer in the UCL


From the moment Ansu Fati made his unexpected Barcelona debut against Real Betis, as an unknown 16-year-old Barcelona U19A prospect, the Spaniard has continued to prosper, recently securing second place in the NxGn list of the best young players in the world.

In only his second outing for the Catalan giants, he followed up his debut appearance by netting his first goal for the club, superbly heading home a pinpoint Carles Pérez cross. This goal held great significance as he became the youngest ever player to score for Barcelona, going ahead of Bojan Krkic in the respective all-time list.

But the young winger wasn’t stopping there. With his side heading towards a hard-fought point, away at Inter Milan, Fati announced himself on the big stage. Picking the ball up on the edge of the I Nerazzurri’s box, he played a neat one-two with Luis Suárez before lashing the ball past Samir Handanović. That goal saw him became the youngest goalscorer in UEFA Champions League history at the age of 17 years and 40 days.

Scroll to continue with content

So, was he always destined for great things? After his brace against Levante (which saw him become the youngest player to score twice in a Liga game), former coach Ernesto Valverde said, the winger had “something special about him.”

Ansu Fati Barcelona 2019-20
Ansu Fati Barcelona 2019-20

After that same match, the Bissau-born teenager had this to say, “I dreamt of moments like this and I want to thank my teammates and my coach for giving me another opportunity.

"It's not easy to come into a team like this as a young boy but I'm very grateful for the support I've had. I've still got a lot more to come, I like playing with Lionel Messi - it's a dream to play alongside him - but I want to continue fighting for my place."

While his special talent is now widely told, his difficult road to the Barcelona first team is less well documented. Born in Guinea-Bissau, Fati’s family fled their home country after a devastating civil war and military coup. Fati’s father, Bori Fati, left his family and went to Europe to try and establish a base for his family to follow him.

After being forced to beg on the streets for food, Fati intervened and a chance meeting with a Spanish town’s mayor led to a job and the basic security needed to bring the Ansu family to Europe.

For Fati, the struggles to become a professional footballer continued as at the age of nine, he was rejected by the Sevilla Club Academy. Left, to play for his local town Herrera’s football club, he was scouted and accepted into Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy in 2012.

Fati’s passion and determination to reach the top continued to be challenged when in 2015, as a 13-year-old, Fati suffered a double-leg break which would set him back for just over a year.

Those close to the player say this moment was one of the most important in his career. The injury toughed the youngster up and his passion for the game made him even more determined and focused to succeed.

Speaking to UEFA.COM, Fati's first coach, José Luis Pérez Mena, from Escuela de Fútbol Peloteros de Herrera had this to say, "I've been watching football for 50 years and I've never seen anyone like him. He's got a great personality; he's not scared of anyone."

What to read next