Ansu Fati returns in Lionel Messi shirt to help Barcelona ease pressure on Ronald Koeman

Ansu Fati of FC Barcelona celebrates 3-0 with Eric Garcia of FC Barcelona, Yusuf Demir of FC Barcelona, Riqui Puig of FC Barcelona during the La Liga Santander match between FC Barcelona v Levante at the Camp Nou on September 26, 2021 in Barcelona Spain.

Barcelona's Ansu Fati made the perfect return after 10 months out through injury by scoring in a 3-0 victory over Levante on Sunday, a result that eases the pressure on coach Ronald Koeman.

Fati, wearing the number 10 shirt previously belonging to Lionel Messi, came on to a raucous reception at Camp Nou, 323 days after his last appearance in November last year.

And the 18-year-old came back in style, carrying the ball forward and lashing it into the net in injury time to complete a much-needed victory for Barca.

Fati was hoisted into the air by his teammates and then he climbed into the crowd behind the substitutes bench, to embrace members of his family and the club's medical staff.

"I want to say thank you to the doctors and everyone who has been with me through all this, and the fans who have been unbelievable," said Fati afterwards.

After needing three operations on a knee injury, many wondered if Fati would ever get back to the levels he showed so spectacularly when he first broke into the first team in 2019.

There is still a long way to go for the teenager but his return, and a brilliant goal, raised the roof at Camp Nou and lifted spirits after a turbulent few weeks consumed by speculation about Koeman's future.

"You saw the reaction in the stadium – we know he is a very good player," said Koeman's assistant Alfred Schreuder, who took on media duties with Koeman serving a touchline ban.

"The goal was not even a chance. He created it out of nothing. This is the individual quality he has and it's what we need."

Koeman may not be saved by this result – the club could look to make a change during the upcoming international break – but there was at least renewed positivity inside the stadium, even before Fati's dramatic intervention.

Barcelona's first win in four games moves them up to fifth in La Liga, five points behind Real Madrid with a game in hand. They play Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano next weekend.

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