Barcelona boss Xavi reportedly decided not to start Ansu Fati in Saturday’s clash with Elche as the youngster was suffering with ‘slight muscular discomfort’ ahead of the contest.
The 19-year-old had seemingly been in line for his first La Liga start of the campaign in the match with Elche, but he instead featured for the final 31 minutes of the home side’s 3-0 win.
According to Mundo Deportivo, Fati complained of a slight muscular problem ahead of the game, and Xavi was not prepared to take any risks with the teenager from the start.
The Spain international missed around nine months with a serious knee injury before returning to action last September, but he then suffered two further setbacks, struggling with hamstring issues.
Fati was used sparingly in the latter stages of the 2021-22 campaign, with Barcelona being cautious when it comes to the teenager, who has two goals and two assists in La Liga this term off the bench.
“Ansu is fine. He’s a great player and he makes the difference when he comes on. It’s important to us. We may be expecting a little more intensity during the match, but he is gradually coming back, and he understands that is he coming out of a difficult situation,” Xavi told reporters ahead of the game with Elche.
“I will decide [about Ansu]. You have to be prudent. Last year, we were maybe too rash with the decision, and it was a problem.”
Fati has represented Barcelona on 65 occasions in all competitions, contributing 21 goals and eight assists in the process, and he had been expected to represent Spain at the 2022 World Cup.
However, the attacker’s participation in the tournament is currently in doubt, as La Roja boss Luis Enrique has left him out of the squad for the UEFA Nations League games with Switzerland and Portugal.
Enrique was asked about Fati towards the end of last week, and the national team head coach said that the youngster was not currently ready to be included.
“We called him in June simply to get into group dynamics and to listen to what we want in the national team, have contact and really see how he was on the field,” he said.
“The truth is he was much better, now he has been participating but at his club he has only started one game and that tells me something.
“He continues to have a wonderful relationship with the goal, I hope he recovers his level and we see the best Ansu, but today I do not see him ready for the squad and that is why I have not brought him. Hopefully he improves for the World Cup roster. He’s very young and we still have high expectations for him.”
Spain will begin their 2022 World Cup against Costa Rica on November 23, while they will also take on Germany and Japan in the group stage of the competition.