Koeman: It's impossible for Fati to fill Messi void

By Sports Desk October 20, 2021

Ronald Koeman says Ansu Fati still has plenty of room for improvement and does not expect the youngster to achieve the "impossible" by completely filling Lionel Messi's void.

The 18-year-old has committed his long-term future to Barca by agreeing terms on a new contract, which Los Cules announced on Wednesday.

Fati inherited Messi's number 10 shirt following the latter's shock switch to Paris Saint-Germain and is considered Barca's big hope now the club's all-time leading scorer is no longer around.

But he was guilty of missing a great opportunity in Wednesday's Champions League clash with Dynamo Kiev, which Barca only won 1-0 despite controlling the contest.

The Spain international has scored 15 goals in 48 games for Barca in total, a tally that is bettered only by Luis Suarez (21), Antoine Griezmann (35) and Messi (69) – none of whom are still at the club – since his debut 26 months ago.

Still regaining fitness after nearly a year on the sidelines with a knee injury, Koeman does not want supporters to get carried away when it comes to Fati's development.

"Ansu's chance today shows he still lacks things. He needs to improve," Koeman said at his post-match news conference.

"That is entirely normal. He will only turn 19 at the end of the month. He cannot be expected to solve all our problems, or what Leo Messi left behind. It's impossible.

"You have to help each other go step by step. We cannot expect miracles, especially when he has been out injured for a long time and is still only 18."

Barca had 11 shots against Dynamo but only found the target from three of those, with Gerard Pique scoring what proved to be the winner with 36 minutes played.

As well as becoming Barca's oldest Champions League goalscorer at 34 years and 260 days, Pique is now also the joint-leading goalscorer among defenders in the competition's history, level with Roberto Carlos (16 each).

Koeman felt his side should have won by a more comfortable margin against accommodating opponents Kiev, who failed to muster a single attempt on target at Camp Nou.

"I'm happy with the performance, but not because of our effectiveness," he said. "In a game when we were so superior and created opportunities, we should have scored more.

"If they don't have opportunities, you can't ask for more from the attackers, but they did. The normal outcome today would have been 3-0 or 4-0.

"I understand that people leave upset, because I am too. We have achieved the result we wanted, but with the opportunities we have created, we have to score more."

Barcelona's victory was their first in the Champions League in six attempts since December 2020, a run that includes back-to-back 3-0 losses to Bayern Munich and Benfica to begin their 2021-22 campaign.

The LaLiga club are now back in contention for a top-two finish in Group E at the midway point, but full-back Jordi Alba – who set up Pique's winner – accepts his side were made to work harder for the points than they perhaps needed to.

"In the first half we had chances to score more than once," he told Movistar. "In the second half we weren't so good under pressure and we suffered a bit.

"They did not create opportunities but we were still not in a good place. We have to improve on the second-half display."

In a worrying update ahead of Sunday's Clasico clash with Real Madrid, Alba confirmed he sustained an injury during the Kiev match despite playing the full 90 minutes.

"It's my toe. We'll have to wait and see what it is," he said. "But now we look forward to the Clasico. We have won our last two games and the fans have responded to that, helping us grow. 

"We are expecting a tough game against Madrid, but we hope to bring more joy to the fans."

Related items

  • Wimbledon: 'Phew! I am lucky!' – Djokovic relieved to get job done just before curfew Wimbledon: 'Phew! I am lucky!' – Djokovic relieved to get job done just before curfew

    Novak Djokovic beat Tim van Rijthoven on Sunday to take his place in the Wimbledon quarter-finals, and was very relieved to get the job done ahead of the 23:00BST curfew.

    World number one Djokovic saw off the Wimbledon debutant 6-2 4-6 6-1 6-2 on Centre Court to set up an intriguing last-eight clash with Jannik Sinner.

    The contest did not go all the defending champion's way, however, as Van Rijthoven's display in the second set suggested Djokovic would have to dig deep.

    But the Serb's response was emphatic as he went on drop just three games in the following two sets, blowing the 25-year-old Dutchman away impressively to reach a 13th Wimbledon quarter-final.

    It was also Djokovic's 25th successive win at Wimbledon, a sequence that has only ever been bettered three times in SW19.

    For a while there seemed to be a real threat of Van Rijthoven taking the match into a second day, with the curfew looming.

    Djokovic suggested he was not entirely aware of the deadline, and that only increased his relief after clinching victory with 22 minutes to spare.

    Speaking on court afterwards, Djokovic said: "I don't know if there was a curfew, 11pm? Is that still on? Okay, phew!

    "I am lucky, I am lucky. It's only 20 minutes, too, so I'm lucky. I have had some previous experience of playing a match over two days under the roof against [Rafael] Nadal some years ago, and it's never really pleasant if you can't finish the match the same day.

    "I am glad I did and now I am just looking forward to the next challenge."

    Specifically on Van Rijthoven, Djokovic added: "He was very tough, he's kind of a new face on the tour and actually won his first ATP match in the tournament he won a few weeks ago in his country, beating players in top five, top 10 in the world.

    "He was on a streak on this surface, so I knew it wasn't going to be easy with that serve and a lot of talent, great touch and a powerful forehand. He can do a lot of damage.

    "It took me a little bit of time to get used to his pace, and the conditions under the roof are a little bit different, a bit slippery, so it takes a bit of adjusting, but overall I closed out the match well."

  • Trincao returns to Barcelona as Wolves opt against triggering option Trincao returns to Barcelona as Wolves opt against triggering option

    Francisco Trincao has returned to Barcelona after Wolves opted against triggering their purchase option.

    The 22-year-old winger joined Wolves on loan last July, reportedly paying £5.1million (€5.9m) to borrow him for the season.

    As part of the deal, Wolves secured an option to buy the Portugal international for £25million (€29m) at the end of the loan, but that rarely looked a realistic outcome.

    Trincao featured 28 times for Wolves in the Premier League, though only 16 of those appearances were as a starter, and he had a hand in just four goals.

    Despite Wolves letting Trincao return to Barcelona, they will – according to a report published on Sunday by the West Midlands-based Express and Star – receive 20 per cent of his next transfer fee.

    He heads back to Barca with his future at Camp Nou unclear, as the club are keen to offload deadwood amid something of a financial crisis.

    Barca reportedly spent €31million in January 2020 to bring Trincao to the club from Sporting Braga, but his impact has been largely minimal.

  • Wimbledon: Sinner labels Alcaraz triumph one of his best after sinking Spanish star's hopes Wimbledon: Sinner labels Alcaraz triumph one of his best after sinking Spanish star's hopes

    Jannik Sinner said his win over Carlos Alcaraz ranked among the highlights of his young career after reaching the Wimbledon quarter-finals with an impressive 6-1 6-4 6-7 (8-10) 6-3 victory.

    The 20-year-old Italian converted his sixth match point of an enthralling encounter on Centre Court to reach his third grand slam quarter-final.

    The contest had been billed as a clash between two of the sport's future superstars, with their combined age the lowest in a fourth-round grand slam match since Juan Martin del Potro faced Kei Nishikori at the 2008 US Open.

    At 19 years and 66 days old, Alcaraz had become the youngest male player to reach the last 16 at Wimbledon since 2011, and Sinner was keen to credit his opponent after a battle which lasted three hours and 35 minutes.

    "First of all, Carlos is a very tough opponent and a very nice person, so it's always a huge pleasure for me to play against him," Sinner said.

    "Today was such a great crowd and especially today, 100 years [since Centre Court opened]… it's just amazing.

    "It's tough when you have match point and you still have to play. It's part of the game, part of tennis, and obviously I'm very happy with how I reacted.

    "I'm very happy to be in the next round, and hopefully I can play some good tennis also in the next round."

    Sinner, who boasts a 5-0 record against Spanish players in 2022, was asked where the triumph ranked among the best moments of his career.

    He said: "In the top list, for sure. I didn't expect it because I was not playing so well on the grass.

    "Then match after match I was better, I won my first grass-court match here in the first round, and now I'm here in the quarter-finals. I tried to adapt myself and the crowd helps me a lot."

    Sinner had previously lost four fourth-round meetings with top-10 players at grand slams, being beaten by Alexander Zverev at the 2020 French Open and 2021 US Open, Rafael Nadal at the 2021 French Open, and Andrey Rublev at Roland Garros last month.

    Sinner also improved his 2022 record against top-10 opponents to 2-5 with the victory, with his only previous win coming against Rublev at the Monte Carlo Masters.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.