BARCELONA – Leo Messi and Ansu Fati. The boss and the apprentice await the arrival of the Classic from two very different perspectives. Ansu counts the hours for the start of this Saturday, which, logically, will be the first as the starter of Barça.
The youth accumulated 18 minutes in two short moments last season with a draw (0-0) at the Camp Nou under Ernesto Valverde and a defeat (2-0) at the Bernabéu under the command of Quique Setién. Messi … Messi already has 43 duels behind him against the great rival, 40 of them as a starter, and he has seen them, as they say colloquially, of all colors.
The one this Saturday, however, goes to the plane with a special flavor. It is always said but it can be strictly true this time. Can, conditionally. It will be if Messi maintains his intention to leave Barça at the end of this season, a circumstance impossible to know at this point but which is not at all ruled out in view of what happened last summer and his tacit recognition that he stayed at the club because he couldn’t leave.
Messi, not knowing at this point if the Champions League and the Copa del Rey will cross Barça and Madrid in a tie this season, could play his last Clásico at the Camp Nou against a rival he has faced at home 21 times, accumulating 7 victories, 8 draws and 6 defeats, and he has scored 11 goals (curiously, he has beaten Real more times at the Bernabéu, 15 times, than at the Barça stadium). The last?
If so, the memory of its premiere would come to the plane, a distant November 19, 2005 when it was a luxury secondary in the Ronaldinho exhibition at the Bernabéu, the night that the Brazilian was awarded an ovation by the rival fans, rendered to the 0-3 with which Barça, on the way to their second consecutive league title under Rijkaard and the Paris Champions League, swept away the team led by Wanderley Luxembourg.
That was the first Clásico in Messi’s career, centered on Ronnie’s double and another goal from Eto’o on a night that, in a direct way, began to understand the nature of a duel like no other in the world … And that he already understood indisputably after 16 months, when he played it for the first time at the Camp Nou, on March 10, 2007 that remains in the imaginary of his magical nights. Barça did not win (3-3), but no one forgets that it was he, Leo, who with the number 19 on his back scored the three Barça goals and went from apprentice to figure.
Guessing at this point what the Argentine star thinks is a chimera and perhaps that is why his presence this Saturday in this different Classic takes on special relevance, behind closed doors and to which Madrid arrives touched by two consecutive defeats. The last time they faced the meringues they lost (2-0) at the Bernabéu and did not go beyond 0-0 in the last played at home.
After five demanding duels without seeing the door and having won four of the last ten clashes, Messi focuses almost all the eyes of Barcelona on his indisputable rise in the Barça club … whose fans are so excited trusting in his permanence despite of everything in the club as in the irruption of Ansu Fati, the youth called to succeed him in the leadership of the future.