'Fati is a potential Ballon d'Or winner'

Andrea Orlandi was delighted to see Fati make the move to Albion.

By Charlie Hanson • 15 September 2023

By Paul Hazlewood
Ansu Fati could make his debut Albion against Manchester United on Saturday.

Former Albion and Barcelona midfielder Andrea Orlandi believes Roberto De Zerbi can be the man to help Ansu Fati get back to his very best.

The Spain international joined us late in the transfer window on a season-long loan from Barcelona, having helped his parent club to a league and cup double last season.

Andrea – who now works as a pundit covering La Liga – said, “It was a shock for people in Spain to see him leave for Brighton, but mainly because people over here don’t or didn’t know what Brighton are doing,” he said.

“They’ve got to grips with the club and the decision, because Brighton are playing some of the best football in Europe.

“Roberto De Zerbi is one of the brightest coaches at the moment. He loves to nurture young and talented players and I am sure that he’s going to get the best out of Ansu, to take him back to the level he was at – a top player and a potential Ballon d’Or winner. People were shocked, but not anymore.”

By Paul Hazlewood
Ansu Fati joined us on a season-long loan from Barcelona.

While Ansu made 36 league appearances for Barca last season, only 12 of those were starts after two campaigns interrupted by injury.

“The last couple of seasons have been difficult for him because he burst onto the scene and it was sensational the way he got into the first team at Barcelona,” Andrea added. “He didn’t touch the Barca B dressing, he never trained or played with the reserve team, he went straight from the under-19s to the first team because [former Barcelona coach] Ernesto Valverde was hugely impressed by him in training.

“He made the step naturally and had a great connection with [Lionel] Messi, he started scoring goals and never looked back. He is a natural talent with an unbelievable eye for goal. He exceeded all expectations and got Barcelona fans really excited.

“Injuries took over and his progress stalled because of that, but there is no doubt that he is a gem – the sort of talent you only see every 10-20 years.”

Andrea reckons that Ansu is in the perfect place to rediscover his early promise, especially because of the range of forward positions he can play in.

“He likes to operate down the left where Mitoma is playing, but we know that that is Kaoru’s position.

“But Ansu can play in between the lines as a ten, or a second striker. He’s been used as a striker as well at Barcelona – it’s not his main position, his best is playing off the No. 9.

“He will fit in perfectly and will understand what De Zerbi requires from a player in that position. This is where I think he can make the difference for Brighton. He’s a complete attacking player.

“The most important thing for me is that he’s smiling when he’s on a football pitch. Brighton is the best place for him and if he is able to do that he could have another amazing season. He will be a big star in the Premier League.”