In Barcelona’s grassroots football they mark a turning point in the relationship of the youth players when they become cadets. “You just have to pay attention to the stands. When they are youngest or fry, the parents of all the children are always together. But then everything starts to change. There are small groups, there are jealousy … the competition. This is what professional football has ”, explains Aureli Altimira, former 11 football coordinator at the Barça youth academy. At La Masia they are clear about it, the friendships that are forged in the amateur stage are vital for the development of young footballers. The weird thing, however, is that these societies escalate to the first team. There are exceptions, of course, such as Ansu Fati (Guinea-Bissau, 18 years old) and Eric García (Barcelona, 20 years old). The homegrown players met in 2012, when the forward left the town of Herrera (Seville) to move to Sant Joan Despí. “Eric and Ansu are like brothers. Those friendships, when they know each other when they are so young and experience so many things, they are very special ”, says a coach from the Barcelona youth academy.
Eric García’s family home in Martorell became Ansu Fati’s home, away from his mother and father, because when the Guinean moved to Barcelona they were still living in Andalusia. “When we went to sign children from outside Catalonia, we explained to their families to stay calm because their children weren’t going to be alone on weekends,” says Altimira. And to take in children, few families better than Eric’s. “His parents, in that sense, were spectacular. The typical ones that welcomed the boys who came from abroad. An example for all ”, adds the former coordinator of grassroots football. Eric’s PlayStation became the console for all of his teammates, like his father Sergi’s car on the team bus. Countless Saturday nights and until Three Kings Day Fati spent them with García.
“Their chemistry was immediate,” underlines a youth soccer coach. “Surely,” he adds, “because they are very different.” At the end of a LaLiga Promises tournament, Barça television interviewed Eric García. “Who is your idol in the first team?” They asked him. “I would like to be like Puyol or like Mascherano,” Garcia replied. The response of the central surprised his technicians. “With all due respect, what child wants to be like Puyol and Mascherano? Everyone says Messi, which is surely what Ansu said ”, they say in the Barcelona quarry. Meanwhile, by then, Ansu Fati was already running as the joy of the dressing room, and Eric García was standing as the leader. “He was not only the one who took care of all the children who came from outside. He was also the typical kid who went to watch rivals ‘games and told you:’ Mister, they changed this or that. The forward moves like this or handle”, Explain the same sources.
“We have a very close relationship since he arrived at Barça at the age of youngsters. I appreciate him and I love him very much and I’m looking forward to playing with him at the Camp Nou. It’s something we used to say when we were little ”, said Eric García on the day of his presentation. The center-back, who in 2017 left for Manchester City when Pep Segura, who was responsible for grassroots football between 2015 and 2019, did not offer him a career plan, returned to Barcelona this summer. Ansu Fati never moved. “When Eric left, the club thought that another of the promises could not escape them. Ansu was one of them ”, underlines an employee of the club. From a youth squad designated to inherit Messi’s number 10. “When Piqué and others from the club told me to take it, I said no. I had already made the decision since I signed. I wanted to use 19. The number I used at the U-20 World Cup in Holland and on the national team. Besides, 10 looks good on Ansu Fati ”, says Kun Agüero.
Since he returned from injury – he was out for nearly 10 months – Fati has played four games (116 minutes) in which he has scored two goals and distributed an assist. The sports management of Barcelona does not want surprises and is already working on his new contract.
“It is true that Ansu Fati is close to renewing with Barça. This is great news, ”said Ronald Koeman. “Details are lacking, but it is true that the negotiations are going very well,” add sources from the sports area. Last week, Fati’s representative, Jorge Mendes, was in Barcelona. This Monday, Mateu Alemany, football director, traveled to Porto to continue the talks. The intention is that the new bond of the forward has a clause of 1,000 million and that it expires in 2027. A year before the one of Eric García ends. The idea of the youth squad is to continue their whole life at the Camp Nou. It is nothing new, they have thought about it since they were fry, when they travel together in the Garcia family car.
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