The 16-year-old forward contributed a goal and an assist inside seven minutes of a dominant win for his team in the absence of Lionel Messi

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde struggled for words to describe teen sensation Ansu Fati after the forward played a key role in his side’s 5-2 thrashing of Valencia on Saturday. 

Rocked by the sudden sacking of Marcelino midweek, Los Che endured a torrid afternoon at Camp Nou, despite the absence of the likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez from the hosts’ starting line-up. 

Fati, 16, making his first Liga start, took full advantage of those absences in a stellar performance alongside Antoine Griezmann and Carles Perez up front. 

The youngster needed just two minutes to open the scoring, and then added an assist for Frenkie de Jong as Barca went 2-0 up inside the first 10 minutes. 

Gerard Pique added another before Suarez, making his first appearance since Barca’s opening-day defeat at the hands of Athletic after recovering from injury, came off the bench to score a double against the demoralised visitors, who hit through Kevin Gameiro and Maxi Gomez. 

All eyes were on Fati, though, who now has two in the current Liga campaign; and Valverde admitted that the youngster’s emergence had taken him by surprise. 

“It is not easy for anyone to play for Barca, even less so for someone as young as Ansu Fati… It is not normal for him to score on the first ball, assist in the second,” the coach told reporters after the final whistle.

“Everything will be normalised, we are interested in him getting to know himself, that he realizes that this is very complicated.

“Wherever you are, the player who earns his place is the one that plays, there is no secret, the coaches want players to come out; if they are young and have energy you use them.

“Ansu has qualities that suit us, we will see the potential he has.”

Fati’s stunning start to life at Barca has attracted inevitable comparisons with Messi, who also broke into the Barca first team before turning 18.  

Valverde, however, is keen to play down those links and hopes his new sensation focuses on his own game.  

“I do not care if Ansu Fati’s start has been compared with Messi’s,” he added.  

“We know that the balloon will start rising now but we will deflate it, it is up to us to protect the player.” 

Saturday’s win leaves Barca in fourth place in the Liga standings, two points behind leaders Atletico who dropped their first points of the season in a 2-0 defeat to Real Sociedad.  

Valverde’s men will be back in action on Tuesday, when they open their Champions League campaign away to Borussia Dortmund in Group F. 

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