Could Barcelona wonderkid Ansu Fati play for Portugal?
He is one of the hottest prospects football currently has to offer. At just 16 years of age, Barcelona’s Ansu Fati is already making a real name for himself, and the cliche suggestion that he is set to take the baton from sporting legend Lionel Messi and lead the club into a new era in the coming years is already rife amongst the media circus.
But Ansu Fati’s international future still remains somewhat unclear despite having recently been granted Spanish citizenship, with three countries still very keen on seeing the youngster represent them over the coming decade.
Spain, after Fati obtained that citizenship, are undoubtedly the frontrunners to have the youngster represent their national team over the coming years, though Guinea-Bissau, the country of Fati’s berth, have not given up hope of seeing the 16-year old winger go on to play for the tiny African country.
As the vice-president of the Guinea-Bissau football association Celestino Goncalves pointed out in a recent interview, “several players who play in our national team also have dual nationality. Obtaining Spanish nationality does not erase your national origin.”
And it is a fair point; although he has Spanish citizenship, that does not necessarily mean that he intends on representing the country at national level, but it could instead simply make other aspects of life easier, such as travelling and living in Spain and other European countries.
Nevertheless, the likelihood of seeing Fati represent Guinea-Bissau seems low; with the country having previously been the birthplace of a wealth of highly promising players, many have moved to other countries at a young age, namely Portugal, and gone on to be brought through the acclaimed academies in Lisbon and Porto before opting to represent the Portugal national team.
To give but a few examples, the likes of Danilo Pereira, Bruma, Umaro Embalo, Edgar Ie, and the one and only Euro 2016 hero Eder were all born in Guinea Bissau, but moved to Portugal when under the age of 15 and went on to represent Portugal as a result. And Ansu Fati is very likely to be another expatriate to represent a different country to his nation of birth.
However, the possibility remains open that Fati will not represent Spain - but will represent Portugal instead.
It has been on the cards for sometime; through his grandparents, he has always been eligible to represent Portugal, but few really truly believed that it was ever a realistic possibility, with Ansu having lived in Spain since the age of 6.
However, Ansu Fati’s father, Bori, who immigrated to Portugal, has recently spoken in an interview with A Bola, and made it very clear that representing Portugal was - and probably still is - something that he and his son would love to see:
“My dream was to see Ansu play for Portugal and I believe it was also the dream of my son. Now, it is hard. I had contact with a technical secretary of Portugal’s football federation, Joaquim Milheiro. We spoke very well… but he didn’t call me back.”
“He feels Portuguese, and so do I. And this [him representing Portugal] could easily happen, it just needs Umaro Embalo of Benfica to persuade him. They’re great friends, they talk every day.”
“I know he’d like to wear Portugal’s shirt as he’d be among other African players. At home he’s always wearing the Selecao shirt given to him by Umaro Embaro.”
“It’s in Ansu’s hands, he will make the decision.”