Barcelona starlet Ansu Fati has been tipped not to play at the upcoming Under-17 World Cup, as the Spanish federation (RFEF) look to avoid a potential ‘club vs country’ conflict over the 16-year-old, who could be fast-tracked to the Under-21 national team instead.
Already eligible to represent Guinea-Bissau and Portugal at international level, Fati was granted a Spanish passport last week and is thought to have been included on a preliminary squad list for the Under-17 FIFA tournament that kicks off in Brazil next month.
But there was fear that Barcelona and RFEF could end up on a collision course, with the club said to be unhappy at the prospect of losing Fati for a number of weeks when he has become an important part of the first-team squad in the opening stages of the 2019/20 season.
Going to the Under-17 World Cup has the potential for him to miss as many as seven games.
Barcelona were reported to also be concerned that Fati’s development might be detrimentally affected if he is taken out of the environment as they want him to continue training with the first-team, even if some of his game time will come at B-team level as the season progresses.
According to El Partizado de COPE, a resolution may have been reached as the programme claims that Fati will now not play in the Under-17 World Cup after all. They say he will soon link up with the Under-21 squad instead, presumably at the next international break in October.
💥 Informa @isaacfouto— El Partidazo de COPE (@partidazocope) September 26, 2019
❌ Ansu Fati NO jugará el Mundial Sub 17 con España
🔜 Irá convocado próximamente con la Sub 21 para evitar un conflicto con el Barça
👀 La @rfef seguirá su evolución de cerca por si pudiera estar presente con la absoluta en la @EURO2020#PartidazoCOPE pic.twitter.com/Y9NlhDha6o
That would mean the player is not missing Barcelona games, while it is even claimed that RFEF will closely monitor his progress as he is already being considered for a surprise inclusion in Spain’s Euro 2020 squad at the end of the season.
Marca also carries a story about Fati and international duty, but has a slightly different take on things. Their version of events suggests that while RFEF are considering him for the Under-21 squad, a place in the Under-17 squad for the junior World Cup hasn’t yet been ruled out.
However, any participation at the Under-17 tournament would be a one-off. That is because the Under-21 squad is seen as a better fit in terms of his development and reflecting the style of football Fati plays at Barcelona, but also to get him ready for the 2020 Olympic squad.
Spain’s current Under-21 squad will form the bulk of the Under-23 Olympic side and Marca suggests the idea is for Fati to become more accustomed and familiar with the teammates he would be playing with at that tournament in Tokyo, which will begin in late July next summer.
If going to the Olympics is the more realistic plan, that would all but rule Fati out of Euro 2020.
Lionel Messi won an Olympic gold medal with Argentina 11 years ago, although the club did initially refuse to let him go to the tournament as it clashed with the start of the 2008/09 season. On that occasion, Pep Guardiola, who won gold in 1992, stepped in to help the player go.