Barcelona’s 5-2 win over Real Betis at the weekend came at a price.
It wasn’t immediately apparent why Ansu Fati had been hauled off at half-time in the La Liga fixture, however, it later became clear that he’d picked up an injury.
Worse news was to follow with Barca confirming a meniscus knee injury which needed an operation and which could, potentially, keep the player out for up to four months.It’s a sign of how far the club have fallen, with respect, that the loss of an 18-year-old could be crucial to their aspirations this season.
However, for one player in particular, it offers renewed hope.
With Fati out of the picture until March at least, by which time the Champions League will be starting up again in earnest, Antoine Griezmann could have cemented himself a place in Ronald Koeman’s preferred XI.
Depending on how the Dutchman sees it, the possibility of Griezmann, Messi and Dembele as a front three exists.
The issue for Griezmann is where he plays, as that arguably authors just how well he does in any given game.
Before Fati burst onto the scene, the French World Cup winner was being given more than enough chances to shine, but the elephant in the room was always that he was being played out of position.
Hence, there was a cogent argument that Barca couldn’t possibly get the best out of him.
It was a theme that had come to pass before his arrival, with Philippe Coutinho suffering much the same fate.
Fati’s absence also perhaps delays a departure for Griezmann. He’s one of few players in the Barca squad, along with Dembele, who could still command a significant fee in the transfer market.
With it being alleged that the club are close to bankruptcy, thanks to the financial mismanagement of Josep Maria Bartomeu and his board, any money coming into club coffers would be welcomed.
However, that now has to be tempered with what’s happening on the pitch.
Could Barca afford to lose Griezmann in January, knowing that it will be two further months before Fati returns? That’s highly unlikely.
So, starting with the fixture against his old club, Atletico Madrid, the Frenchman needs to pull out all of the stops and really make his mark this time.
He doesn’t have any room for mistakes or manoeuvre now, and if he fails to pass the test this time, then it will be au revoir Antoine.