BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has risked a club versus country dispute with Spain after suggesting he does not want 16-year-old striker Ansu Fati to be called up for next month’s Under-17 World Cup.
The Spanish Federation must submit their squad to FIFA by next week and Fati, who became Barcelona’s youngest ever Champions League debutant after starting Tuesday’s 0-0 drew at Borussia Dortmund, received Spanish citizenship on Friday ahead of the deadline.
Born in Guinea-Bissau in West Africa, Fati moved to Spain aged six.
National team coach Robert Moreno admitted last week that the Federation were doing everything in their power to ensure he chose to play for his adopted country at international level.
He now looks set to be included in the squad for the tournament in Brazil, however, Valverde wants him to remain at the Camp Nou.
“Let’s see if they call him up first. They needed to do some paperwork and we’ll see with that,” he told a news conference.
“It would be a setback for us because he’s a player who is contributing a lot. If it had happened in this run of games (just gone) it would have been an even bigger setback. We’ll be cautious and wait and see what happens.”
The tournament runs from Oct. 26 to Nov. 17, meaning Fati could miss as many as seven first team games, including the first Clasico meeting of the season with Real Madrid.
Asked if he would speak to the player about the situation Valverde said: “I don’t think he’ll ask for my advice. I don’t like to give advice either, because almost everything I know and have learned about football is through things I’ve experienced.
“Each player should make their own decisions. He’s a young lad, we need to be wary but we won’t get ahead of ourselves right now.”
Reporting by Joseph Cassinelli, editing by Pritha Sarkar