FC Barcelona need a breath of fresh air now more than ever. After a string of disappointing results, the squad is looking forward to the return of Ansu Fati, who may finally get the chance to wear Lionel Messi's number 10 jersey for the first time since the former captain's departure.
Fati has been called up for Barcelona's game against Levante on Sunday, which could be his first appearance in ten months. He had a stellar start to the 2020/21 season, before suffering an injury that kept him sidelined for an extended period.
Fati has been training well since the start of the current campaign, but manager Ronald Koeman said in his pre-match press conference that the youngster will likely only play for a maximum of 15 minutes. While they are eager to have him back, they can't risk a setback in his recovery and will be patiently easing him back into action.
The player himself is raring to return to the pitch, saying that his comeback game feels like a "second debut" for the Blaugrana. Ten months is a very long time to be away for any player, and it must have felt much longer for Fati, who was enjoying a great season before his injury.
The club is desperate to have the attacker back after losing both Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann over the summer transfer window. On top of that, Sergio Aguero has yet to make his Barcelona debut due to injury.
Fati spoke to the press and thanked fans for their support throughout his recovery. "I'm really looking forward to repaying that faith they have put in me, to returning to the Camp Nou. It's going to be like the day of my debut," he said, as quoted by Marca.
He also shared how much he is looking forward to playing at the Camp Nou with fans in the stands for the first time in almost two years.
Fati reflected about the setback, and admitted that it was not easy for him to deal with the lengthy recovery period. "The first days were difficult, I didn't want to accept it but it is what it was. I had to accept it. It's over now and I'm looking forward to being able to enjoy playing again more than ever," he said.
At the start of the 2021/22 season, Fati was able to finally return to training with his teammates. However, Koeman decided to ease him gradually into competition instead of forcing the issue. "Being able to train with my teammates again was a special day for me. I'm very happy to be involved and available again," said Fati.
Barcelona fans are eager to see him back on the pitch, and he will be going in with a lot of expectations resting on his shoulders. Wearing Lionel Messi's number 10 shirt comes with more pressure than most players can handle, but Fati is looking forward to proving himself. "[The No.10 shirt] is an honour for me, I want to thank the club for the opportunity to wear it," he said, before adding that he sees it as a challenge.
Sunday will be Fati's first opportunity to face that challenge, but fans need to manage expectations. Even with his age working for him, it will likely take at least a few matches before he can get back in top shape. The problem is, Barcelona are running out of time to be able to salvage their season.