Ansu Fati

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UCL wrap: Barca’s mints record young goal scorer in eliminating Inter

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The UEFA Champions League has only two berths remaining after Liverpool, Napoli, Borussia Dortmund, Lyon, Valencia and Chelsea claimed their places in the Round of 16.

[ RECAPS: Salzburg 0-2 Liverpool | Chelsea 2-1 Lille ]

That group joins Juventus, Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Tottenham Hotspur, Paris Saint-Germain, and Real Madrid in the next stage, with Shakhtar Donetsk, Dinamo Zagreb, Atalanta, Atletico Madrid, and Bayer Leverkusen answering the bell on Wednesday.

Borussia Dortmund 2-1 Slavia Prague

It was sloppy, and Lucien Favre’s men basically asked the Czechs to stay in the game, but 10-man Borussia Dortmund is onto the Round of 16 after Jadon Sancho and Julian Brandt scored at the Westfalenstadion. Slavia had leveled through Thomas Soucek when Brandt found the winner, which was put in question when Julian Weigl was sent off in the 77th minute.

Lyon 2-2 RB Leipzig

Close. Control. Memphis. Depay.

The former Manchester United winger delivered the goods late to seal a point against already-through RB Leipzig after the Bundesliga side built a 2-0 lead on a pair of first half penalties.

Houssem Aouar had pulled Lyon to within a goal just after halftime, allowing Memphis to do this.

Benfica 3-0 Zenit-Saint Petersburg

Three different goal scorers sent the Portuguese to the Europa League, its 10-man Russian visitors exiting European competition for the season.

Inter Milan 1-2 Barcelona

Ansu Fati turned 17 on Halloween. Forty days later, he became the youngest goal scorer in Champions League history while banishing a historic club to the Europa League.

Carles Perez scored for Barca before Antonio Conte‘s men got an answer through Romelu Lukaku, but Inter could not find a winner in Italy.

Barca left Lionel Messi at home, didn’t use Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Sergio Busquets, and only used Luis Suarez and Frenkie de Jong as subs in the decision.

Fati now has three goals and an assist in approximately 500 senior minutes. Pretty nice goal, kid:

Ajax 0-1 Valencia

A draw at home was going to be enough for last season’s semifinalists, who did not get a draw at home despite a 17-8 advantage in shots. Rodrigo registered a classy goal to clinch Valencia the group.

Napoli 4-0 Genk

The Neapolitan side headed to the penalty spot twice against Maarten Vandevoordt, who set a new UCL standard as the youngest goalkeeper to start a match (17 years, 289 days). Arkadiusz Milik converted one of those penalties to complete his hat trick, while Dries Mertens scored the other in an otherwise even match.

Abidal: Barcelona, Messi negotiating a new deal

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Lionel Messi and his representatives are in talks with Barcelona over a new contract, the defending champion’s sporting director Eric Abidal confirmed  to Mundo Deportivo in an exclusive interview.

“They are already talking,” Abidal, the former Barcelona defender, said. “I do not know if we will have news soon because the decision will depend on the player, but for us as a club I hope it is sorted as soon as possible.”

Messi – a five-time Ballon d’Or winner and Barcelona’s all-time leading goalscorer – joined the club’s well-known academy, La Masia, at the age of 13 and is under contract until 2021 but was recently questioned about his future after Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu revealed that the Argentine can leave Camp Nou on a free transfer due to a clause in his contract.

Asked when he expects an announcement to be made on a new and improved contract, Abidal made it clear he’s unsure but hopes it happens: “It will be known when it is known, but I am positive.”

Throughout seven games in La Liga this season, Messi has scored eight goals and assisted in four occasions. In his latest appearance for the Catalonian side – a 4-1 win over Celta Vigo – the No. 10 scored a first-half hat-trick.

Abidal also confirmed that Barcelona are in talks with breakout teenage starlet Ansu Fati and his camp on a new deal.

“We are also talking to him,” Abidal said. “He is a young player that we have to protect. We have to talk to his family and representatives.”

Earlier this year, the 17-year-old became the youngest player in the league’s history to score and assist in the same game.

Barcelona reportedly set to sign young Ansu Fati to first-team

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According to a report by Spanish publication Mundo Deportivo, Barcelona is readying a first-team contract for 16-year-old Ansu Fati after a collection of positive performances for the club.

The youngster was promoted to the senior side at the start of the season thanks to an injury crisis that swallowed up Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Ousmane Dembele.

He made his first appearance off the bench in the opening league game, coming on for 12 minutes against Real Betis. He then was handed a 45-minute substitute appearance against Osasuna where he registered his first goal in a 2-2 draw. That saw Fati handed his first start, and he scored again just two minutes into the eventual 5-2 win over Valencia.

With Messi struggling of late with injuries and Suarez also struck down and seeing his minutes carefully watched thanks to his advanced age, Fati’s emergence couldn’t have come at a better time for Barcelona. Therefore, the report states the new contract will feature an astronomical release clause of $220 million.

He only just signed a contract with the club back in July that saw him tied to Barcelona through 2022 and put him on a tiered pay scale that would reward him based on appearances for various youth and senior squads. His release clause in that contract was set at $110 million – already a record for a player of his age – but after his recent outburst the club may feel even that is not enough to ward off outside interest. The new contract will also reportedly boost his salary to a fixed $1 million for the season.

Convincing Fati to stick around long-term is of the utmost importance to Barcelona who has been forced to consider the future of the striker position at the club. Suarez’s age is the most pressing concern, but even the potential decline of 32-year-old Messi is a possibility for the near future. With those in mind, Fati’s contributions are critical and could signal a positive future for the Barcelona attack despite the necessary upcoming transitions.

La Liga roundup: Messi, Barcelona stunned by inspired Granada (video)

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Granada’s shocking 2-0 win over Barcelona and subsequent rise to the top of the table headlines Saturday’s La Liga action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Granada 2-0 Barcelona

Not even Lionel Messi, who made his season debut on Saturday, was able to save Barcelona against a red-hot Granada.

Granada, who are off to their best start in their 88 years of existence, had a perfect night in front of their supporters, convincingly getting past a Barcelona that dominated possession, but lacked the offensive ingenuity needed to score.

Barcelona’s defense wasn’t noteworthily robust, either.

Two minutes in, the newly promoted side scored through a headed goal from Ramon Azeez, following a defensive turnover from Junior Firpo.

Unable to record a shot on target in the first half and looking to wakeup a dormant attack, Barcelona brought on wonderkid Ansu Fati and Lionel Messi at halftime. Despite the duo connecting on several occasion and generating a shot on target, it wasn’t enough to get past Rui Silva.

In the 66th minute, following video review, substitute Alvaro Badillo converted from the spot, handing Granada their third win of the season.

Atop of La Liga, Granada set their sights on Real Valladolid, while Barcelona, who are off to their worst league start in 25 years, host Villarreal at Camp Nou.

Atletico Madrid  0-0 Celta Vigo

For a second consecutive week, Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid dropped points, drawing with Celta Vigo 0-0 at Wanda Metropolitano.

Tied with league leaders Granada and Sevilla with 10 points, the alarm bells are far from going off in Madrid. However, as Saturday’s performance showed, los Colchoneros are having trouble finishing chances this season, despite fielding an attack with the likes of Joao Felix, Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata.

In five games, Atletico have managed to score only five goals, six fewer than leaders Granada. Against Celta, Atletico registered 20 shots, five on target, but were unable to crack a stellar Ruben Blanco, who registered five saves.

Leveled with Granada and Sevilla, Atletico Madrid look to get back into winning ways as they take on RCD Mallorca. Elsewhere, Celta Vigo, who have won win after five games, host Espanyol next.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Villarreal 2-0 Real Valladolid

Levante 0-0 Eibar

16-year-old Ansu Fati makes history as Barcelona rout Valencia

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Ansu Fati is a generational star in the making.

On Saturday, just two minutes into the defending champion’s 5-2 win against Valencia at Camp Nou, the 16-year-old scored in his first league start for Barcelona. Five minutes later, he assisted Frankie de Jong, becoming the league’s youngest player ever to score and assist in the same game. Two historic achievements in seven minutes.

In the season opener, the La Masia product became the second-youngest player to feature for Barcelona in La Liga, who now has two goals and an assist after featuring in three league games this season. A game later against Osasuna, Fati became Barcelona’s youngest La Liga scorer.

Currently, there is no other teen like the winger in the world of soccer.