Former Nigeria international Gbenga Okunowo claims Ansu Fati will not be affected negatively by his new jersey number at Barcelona, but urged the teenager should not be compared with Lionel Messi.
Following the Argentina international’s move to Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain, his no. 10 jersey as a Blaugrana player was officially passed to the Spanish teenager on Wednesday.
That announcement put an end to assumptions that the Spanish elite division side would retire the number to honour the six-time Ballon d’Or winner.
Weighing in on his former club’s decision to trust the 18-year-old with the no.10 shirt, the retired right-back feels the choice of the five-time Champions League winners should be respected as it was based on merit.
“Fati has been given the no. 10 jersey the same way Messi was trusted to excel with it. It’s now up to Fati to prove to himself,” Okunowo told Goal.
“The coaching crew must have thought highly of him before handing him that number.
“We all have to respect the decision of Barcelona management. Having this in mind, there should be no basis comparison between Messi and Fati.
“The latter will surely create his own pathway.”
Having in mind that football icons like Diego Maradona, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo and Hristo Stoichkov donned the shirt number during their time with the Catalans, there will no doubt be a burden of expectations on the youngster to deliver.
Nevertheless, Okunowo advises the player of Bissau Guinean descent on what he should do if he hopes to succeed like his predecessors.
“My advice to Fati is that he should enjoy himself, play football, stay disciplined and be focused on his career,” the 42-year-old continued.
“This new number should not affect his football negatively. If the club management team felt it would, they would have given it to someone else.”
Fati’s progress was halted by a knee injury in November 2020 – which ruled him out of the European Championship – however, he has returned to full training after nine months on the sidelines.
He could be in line to return when Ronald Koeman’s side take on Bundesliga outfit Bayern Munich in a Champions League group stage fixture on September 14.