Barcelona’s Ansou Fatti made a full comeback after 10 months of injury following Sunday’s 3-0 win over Leonte, easing pressure on coach Ronald Koeman.
Fati, wearing the number 10 shirt that formerly belonged to Lionel Messi, arrived at Camp Nou in 323 days after his last appearance in November last year.
And the 18-year-old returned to style, taking the ball forward and hitting it into the net during the injury to complete the much-needed victory for Barca.
Fati was waved in the air by her colleagues and then climbed into the crowd behind an alternate bench to hug her family members and the club’s medical staff.
“I want to thank the doctors and everyone who has been with me through all this and the fans who have been incredible,” Fati later said.
After the need for three operations on a knee injury, many wondered if Fatty would ever return to the level he had shown so brilliantly when he first joined the first team in 2019.
The teenager still has a long way to go, but his return and a brilliant goal lifted the roof at Camp Nine and raised eyebrows after a tumultuous few weeks of speculation about the future of Queens.
“You saw the reaction in the stadium – we know he’s a great player,” said Alfred Schroeder, Coeman’s assistant, who took over media responsibilities while imposing a touchline ban with Coeman.
“Purpose was not an opportunity. It did not create it from anything. It is the individual standard that it has and that is what we need.”
Koeman may not be spared the consequences – the club wants to make a change during the next international window – but there was at least a new positivity inside the stadium, even before Fatty’s dramatic intervention.
Barcelona’s first win in four matches took them to fifth place in La Liga, five points behind Real Madrid with one game. They will play Atletico Madrid in Wanda Metropolitano next weekend.
Memphis DePay gave them an early lead through a penalty and Lok de Jong scored his first goal for the club after joining Sevilla on the final day of the transfer window.
But the real excitement revolved around 17-year-old Guy and 19-year-old Nico Gonzalez, both academy graduates who have been on display to suggest Barca’s youth could now be the face of a new era.
DePay got the penalty when he scored in the fifth minute when he left the past and slipped on Nemanja Raduja’s dangerous leg before giving Barca a perfect start.
De Jong’s second was provoked by Depp and at the same time he released Sergino Deste down left, who cut inside and made a spin to the striker, who took the ball inside and fired from inside.
Barca should have increased their lead before half time.
Gerard Pack somehow hit a check from outside the yard before Gavi sent Depp clear through a brilliant ball but he left himself too far from the angle. Gavi then tried to lobby Etter Fernandez and failed.
Leonte was a generous opponent, allowing Barcelona’s place to be dictated from midfield while never threatening to return.
Nico hit wide from the edge of the box and Depp was denied the angle again before substitute Ricky Pewg completed the knockout but finished his last touch.
Peugeot, a well-known graduate of Barga’s La Masia Academy, was greeted enthusiastically by home fans, but it was nothing compared to Fati’s reception. The teenager couldn’t help but smile as he heard the screams.
The smile soon widened, finishing with a one-way run through midfield, a low shot into the corner.
Real Sociedad climbed to second place thanks to a late goal from captain Michael O’Brien, one point behind the table.
Averaceball took advantage of a defensive error in the 81st minute to score their fifth goal of the season in the seventh game, bringing La Real to the edge of Real Madrid.