Ronald Koeman took charge of Barcelona for the first time in a competitive match on Sunday night.
The Dutch coach, who replaced Quique Setien this summer, watched on as his Barça side hammered Villarreal 4-0 at Camp Nou.
This was the Catalan outfit’s first competitive game since last month’s humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League – arguably the worst result in the club’s history – and Koeman couldn’t have wished for a better start to his reign.
Lionel Messi, who made no secret of his desire to leave Barcelona at the end of last season, started the match upfront with Ansu Fati, Philippe Coutinho and Antoine Griezmann just behind him.
But it was Ansu who stole the show, scoring the first two league goals of the Koeman era before winning a penalty – all before half-time.
The 17-year-old, who has broken all sorts of records since making his first-team debut last season, produced an emphatic finish from Jordi Alba’s cut-back for his first goal of the evening.
Four minutes later, he scored again, cooly finishing past Sergio Asenjo after being picked out by Coutinho.
And the Spain international won the penalty from which Messi made it 3-0 in the 35th minute.
Barcelona then found themselves 4-0 up at half-time when Messi’s cross was turned into his own net by Pau Torres.
Despite Messi’s contribution, there’s no doubt who the game’s star performer was. Ansu, who was subbed off for Ousmane Dembele in the second half, has all the tools required to become a global superstar.
But even though he was fantastic against Villarreal, the teenage sensation missed out on the Man of the Match award – or ‘King of the Match’ award, as it’s called in Spain – because of a rather daft reason, according to Get Spanish Football News on Twitter.
The King of the Match award was handed to Jordi Alba because it’s sponsored by beer company Budweiser – and Ansu, who doesn’t turn 18 until the end of October, is not old enough to drink alcohol.
This meant Ansu was ineligible to be selected for the King of the Match award, which was handed to Alba instead.
Ah well. It’s safe to assume he’ll win plenty of Man of the Match awards over the course of his career the way he’s going.
Something similar happened to Chelsea winger Christian Pulisic during his time with Borussia Dortmund back in 2018.
Named Man of the Match after scoring two goals against Liverpool, the USA international was denied the award (which was sponsored by Heineken) due to the legal drinking age in the United States being 21.
Back to Ansu and Sergio Busquets urged people to remain calm about Barça’s latest starlet.
“We have to be calm with him,” the midfielder told reporters, per Marca, after the match. ”We know the ability he has. He’s tremendous.
“We have to let him play his football and make the most of the good form he’s in.”