FC Barcelona president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, has told SPORT how important Ansu Fati is to the future of the club. The growing influence of La Masia's new generation is a reason to be hopeful going forward.
Have Barça received any offers for Ansu Fati?
We haven't had any formal offers but there has been interest from some clubs. Barça's answer has always been 'no'. Ansu isn't for sale and is indispensable for the future of the club. He represents La Masia as someone who comes through the academy, learns and consolidates his place in the first team. He made the jump from the Juvenil side to the first team and there aren't many players like him. Barça can't sell Ansu, even if it might feel like an option to balance the books during a pandemic. We never considered letting him go. The opposite, in fact, what we want is to aid his development and extend his time here so that he plays at Barça for the rest of his life.
In December he signed a contract until 2022. Will the club extend that?
He signed a contract as a Barça B player and now the plan is to promote him to the first team. That contract he signed in December had this in mind. He'll join the first team because he's won his place there. Alongside Riqui (Puig) and (Ronald) Araujo, it shows la Masia is capable of producing young players who can be good enough for the first team. These players prove that La Masia, even if people say it doesn't work, continues to produce footballers. You can't always do that with every generation but we now have three players who are here (in the first team) to stay.
Have you personally spoken with Ansu to let him know he won't be sold?
I haven't spoken to him personally but I have with his representatives. I've told them that regardless of the offers that come in, the club don't intend to negotiate with anyone.
Could he be a future Barça captain?
He's 17-years-old and we don't want to put that pressure on him. Right now, he needs to play and train with the best and be decisive in some matches. But without pressure. He's adjusting to the team and his role will be decided when the time comes. Right now, it's too soon.
Do you regret not allowing Ansu and Riqui play for Barça B in the play-off final?
No, because the people who played were the most prepared for that match. Araujo joined them because he'd featured a lot for Barça B this year. The message I'd like to give them is: 'You didn't manage to get promoted but congratulations for the season. Be patient and relaxed because you're still developing.' In the play-offs, the team played really well - especially in the first two matches. In the third one we didn't play like Barça but that's normal, maybe because of the pressure.