Ansu Fati will be out for the next four months after undergoing surgery on the interior meniscus in his left knee. His absence is the latest challenge for Ronald Koeman to overcome, having already experienced problems up front since taking over at the Camp Nou.
Over the opening weeks of the season, Ansu had become a key figure for Koeman, starting eight of Barcelona’s first ten games, mostly from the left wing. The 18-year-old had made that position his own and, up until Saturday, was the club’s top scorer with five goals. Lionel Messi has now overtaken him.
The form of Messi and some of Ansu’s other teammates had previously been of concern to Koeman. “I’m worried by our output in attack,” the Dutch coach has said at times this campaign. The four month absence of one of his biggest assets is not going to help that cause.
In other years, Barcelona might have dipped into the January transfer market to sign a replacement for an injured player of their own. However, this season, the Catalan club are in such dire financial straits that they can’t afford to buy anyone in January.
In order to sign players in January – the club are focused on bringing in a striker and a centre-back – they must make a major sale first. There’s a reason why the current first team players are being asked to take a second pay cut, this time around 30 percent.
Memphis Depay is one of the forwards Barcelona chased during the summer window and, although he’d agreed personal terms with the Blaugrana, no transfer went through and the Dutch international remained at Lyon.
“You ask me this question a lot,” Depay said at the weekend. “I’m not going to make promises that I’m not sure I can keep. I think Lyon need to make the most of me being here now and I need to make the most of being here. That’s what I try to do every day. You can ask those who are around me. I like to work and I try to be positive every day.”
The 26-year-old, who was preventing from joining Barcelona in the summer for administrative reasons, will be a free agent next summer.
Whether Depay ends up arriving at the Camp Nou or not in January, Koeman has to make do with what he’s got for now. There are matches in LaLiga Santander, Champions League, Copa del Rey and Supercopa de Espana to come.
In Ansu’s absence, the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Pedri are favourites to fill his spot in the team, while Trincao, Ousmane Dembele and Martin Braithwaite can all deputise at left wing.