Lionel Messi says Barcelona must do everything they can to help teenage sensation Ansu Fati fulfil his potential.
The 16-year-old has enjoyed a sensational start to the season, becoming a fixture in the first team and contributing two goals in four La Liga appearances.
The youngster has made the most of an opportunity that arose in part because of Messi's injury-enforced absence in the first few weeks of the campaign.
The Guinea-Bissau-born forward's fine form has placed him at the centre of a three-way tussle involving the national teams of Spain, Portugal and the country of his birth.
And while Messi recognises his team-mate's prodigious talent, he has also called on Barcelona (opens in new tab) to aid his development.
"Ansu Fati got my attention from the first time I saw him training, but you have to go step by step because he is 16 years old," the Argentina international said at the The Best FIFA Football Awards 2019.
"He still doesn't have the responsibility that others want to put on his shoulders. He has the potential to be a very important player but we have to help him."
Messi was named the best men's player at the awards ceremony held in Milan on Monday.
The Barcelona forward fought off competition from Virgil van Dijk and Cristiano Ronaldo to scoop the prize, after a season in which he scored 51 club goals in 50 appearances in all competitions.
The Blaugrana captain made his first La Liga appearance of the campaign in Sunday's shock 2-0 defeat by Granada.
That result leaves Barcelona eighth in the table after five matches, only two of which have ended in a victory for the reigning champions.
Ernesto Valverde's side also failed to win their maiden Champions League encounter of 2019/20, playing out a goalless draw with Borussia Dortmund (opens in new tab) last week.
Ansu Fati: who is Barcelona’s 16-year-old record-breaking goalscorer? (opens in new tab)
Why PSG might finally be the Champions League team to fear in 2019/20 (opens in new tab)
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Greg Lea is a freelance football journalist who's filled in wherever FourFourTwo needs him since 2014. He became a Crystal Palace fan after watching a 1-0 loss to Port Vale in 1998, and once got on the scoresheet in a primary school game against Wilfried Zaha's Whitehorse Manor (an own goal in an 8-0 defeat).
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