The headlines should be dominated by a quite exciting 16-year-old talent but Anssumane Fati’s first senior goal for Barcelona is not enough to deviate from the greater, disheartening picture.
Against a spirited Osasuna side, the Catalans slumped to a 2-2 draw away from home having conceded to a Roberto Torres volley as early as the seventh minute.
Fati’s introduction restored parity soon after the break and when another substitute in Arthur found the net, it looked as if Barca had recovered.
However, Gerard Pique’s handball led to a second for Torres as he converted his effort from the spot in the final 10 minutes.
Here, we look at the talking points from the draw.
BEST AND WORST OF VALVERDE
During stoppage time at El Sadar, the camera panned to Ernesto Valverde in the Barcelona dugout. The exasperated coach thumped the back of his head against his seat as his side lost possession with the scores level, though he may well have been frustrated with himself – or at least you’d like to think so.
An insipid first-half display seemed to go according to script with the Catalans failing to register a single shot on target by the break despite trailing for 38 minutes.
The visitors lacked any sort of spark or ingenuity with Lionel Messi absent from the squad again as he nurses a calf injury. The ‘Valverde Out’ brigade were in full swing on social media, and headlines casting his future in further doubt were no doubt being composed.
However, Valverde turned to his bench for inspiration. He threw on 16-year-old prodigy Fati at half-time and the move transformed the away team early in the second period. They started on the front foot and for the first time in the encounter, looked like the better team.
Fati delivered, scoring his maiden goal with a superb header and just like that, a new script was being written. It starred a teenage sensation inspiring his team to a comeback. The narrative was bolstered when another substitution made an instant impact. Arthur was brought in from the cold and in the heat of battle his composed finish put Barca ahead.
But Valverde couldn’t help himself and the revised script found the bin. He and Barcelona retreated into their shell, clinging on to a slender lead and paid the price. A late onslaught was fruitless and Valverde was again left to ponder his approach. Back at Camp Nou, you sense knives are being sharpened.
Ernesto Valverde illustrating how most Barcelona fans feel about Ernesto Valverde pic.twitter.com/Trt4YAGZg6— Jonas Giæver (@CheGiaevara) August 31, 2019
REMEMBER THE NAME
Amid the swirl of discontent and criticism, Barca fans will cherish the one positive to emerge from this disappointing result. Fati made another appearance and with it, a lasting impression as he bagged his first senior goal.
For a club that prides themselves on their famed La Masia academy, the production line has dried up of late and that’s why Fati’s emergence is so significant, especially at his age. In fact, when he made his debut at Camp Nou last week, Barca needed official permission from his parents to name him on their bench as underage players in La Liga aren’t allowed to feature in late-night games without parental consent.
Much has been said about Fati’s talent in the past week with even Messi particularly taking to the young star. Given the impact he had on this game, it’s easy to see why.
His introduction transformed the team’s approach in the second half. Rafinha dropped into midfield and Fati brought an x-factor to the left flank. He seemed raw but there were flashes of quality and he took his goal like a seasoned pro. Remember the name.
Ansu Fati is the first 16-year-old in Barcelona's history to score a LaLiga goal for the club.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 31, 2019
The third-youngest ever in LaLiga for any club. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/4cKHRxfbMN
BOOST FOR OSASUNA
The result on Saturday means it’s now just two wins for Barcelona in their last five trips to Osasuna. The Catalans have always flourished against the Basque outfit at Camp Nou but their struggles continued away from home.
For Jagoba Arrasate and his side, the draw gives them further encouragement that they belong in Spain’s top flight. They stormed to the Segunda title last season but two draws and a win from their opening three games in La Liga will have given their confidence a massive boost.
Plenty of challenges lie ahead but Osasuna can take plenty of positives from this performance. They played the champions – in form or not – and were quite possibly the better side, taking nearly twice as many shots as their more illustrious opponents (15 to 8).
Apart from a brief 15-20 minute period in the second half, the hosts were in control of proceedings. They were compact, hardworking and industrious in attack. They just need to push on from here now.
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has admitted he cannot wait for speculation about Neymar to end when the transfer window closes on Monday.
Valverde also confirmed that Lionel Messi will not recover from his calf injury in time to face Osasuna in La Liga on Saturday.
Messi tore his calf on August 5 and his absence might have accelerated Barca’s chase for Neymar, although reports in Spain on Friday suggested they may be unwilling to meet Paris Saint-Germain’s demands.
With two days left before the market shuts, there is still time for a last attempt, with Barcelona director Jordi Bordas saying on Tuesday that an agreement was “closer”.
“I am very much looking forward to the day the transfer window closes,” said Valverde in a press conference on Friday.
“We can all then rest and know this is the squad that we have.
“On the issue of Neymar, I have nothing more to say. He is a player from another team, we respect other clubs and we’ll see what happens.”
Messi has yet to play this season, despite returning to training with the first team last week.
Barcelona have denied their captain has suffered a setback and hope to have him available for the league game at home to Valencia on September 14, before their Champions League opener away to Borussia Dortmund three days later.
“The process of recovery continues as normal,” Valverde said. “It is true that now the margins are small and we hope that for the game against Valencia he might be available.
“Then we start the Champions League and we hope to have him back for that but we will see how he progresses in these two weeks with the injury.”
Antoine Griezmann scored twice in Messi’s absence last weekend as Barcelona bounced back from defeat to Athletic Bilbao by thrashing Real Betis 5-2.
Ousmane Dembele (hamstring) and Luis Suarez (calf) will also sit out the trip to newly-promoted Osasuna, who have started with a win away at Leganes and a draw at home to Eibar.
Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo remains hopeful a deal can still be done for Neymar to leave the club before the transfer window closes.
The Brazilian, who is yet to play this season, has been repeatedly linked with a return to Spain with either former club Barcelona or Real Madrid, but his future remains unresolved.
The European window closes on September 2 and any potential deal will need to be agreed by then.
Leonardo told the club’s official website after the 2-0 win over Metz: “Our position on a potential departure of Neymar is clear, everyone knows what we want.
“We got a first written offer on 27 August and we refused it, the conditions didn’t suit us.
“There are three days until the end of the transfer window, and for the moment, there is no agreement. We’re talking a lot, with Neymar in particular.
“He’s an extraordinary player, I didn’t know him personally before I came back to Paris. He has gone through a lot of things, he’s a football star today, I like him a lot, we have a good relationship with him.”
Goalkeeper Alphonse Areola was also left out against Metz and Leonardo confirmed discussions are taking place over his departure.
He added: “Areola is in talks with another club, he didn’t want to play this evening. We respected his decision. We still don’t know if he’ll leave, everything is still possible.”
Angel Di Maria and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting scored to send PSG to the top of Ligue 1 with the win over Metz and coach Thomas Tuchel was happy with his side’s display despite the speculation around the club’s players.
He told the club’s official website: “We controlled the game, we were serious and attentive. It was necessary to be today after a week in which a lot has happened.
“We stayed focused, the team put in a great performance, we’re happy.
“(Goalkeeper) Marcin Bulka’s debut pleased me a lot, he’s someone who has a lot of confidence in himself, he managed the pressure, and Adil (Aouchiche) also had a good game, it wasn’t easy for him, he’s very young. But I’m very satisfied.”