Riqui Puig: Unrealized Talent or Victim of Circumstances?
Riqui Puig is one of the most talked about Barcelona players in recent times. This is due primarily to the fact that high hopes were pinned on the guy. Puig was in the system of Barcelona at the age of 14. Since then, he has excelled in different age groups. The older the young midfielder got, the more often he was compared to Andres Iniesta and Xavi.
Puig played 56 matches for Barcelona B, scored 2 goals and gave 10 assists. These are good indicators for a central midfielder. He made his debut on December 5, 2018, under Ernesto Valverde. It was a Spanish Cup match against Cultural Leonesa, in which the young midfielder made an assist.
Puig made his La Liga debut on April 13, 2019, against Huesca. Since then, the footballer has been closely followed, as he showed great promise at the academy. However, Valverde did not give many opportunities to the young midfielder, although it was he who allowed Puig to make his debut in the first team. With the arrival of Quique Setien, the La Masia graduate began to receive more playing time, but the specialist did not last long in Barcelona.
Problems with Koeman
The real problems for Puig began after the appointment of Ronald Koeman as head coach. Under him, Riqui spent an average of 20 minutes per match on the field. These were his worst playing times since being promoted to the first club. Considering that he was a favourite player for every sports bookie in terms of the provided individual statistics to bet on, the lack of playing time was unexpected.
In total, in the 2020/21 season, the midfielder played 281 minutes in La Liga, 86 minutes in the Champions League and 162 minutes in the Spanish Cup. Koeman insisted that the player go on loan. Moreover, there were good options with Fulham, Benfica and Fiorentina.
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Puig refused to go on loan. He said that he has a specific style of play that suits Barcelona in the first place. It seemed that after the departure of Koeman, the suffering of the pupil of La Masia would end. After all, the Dutchman was replaced by Javi Hernandez – a big fan of Puig.
Xavi’s arrival encouraged Puig. He even changed his agent. However, the situation for the player has not improved significantly. At first, Puig got playing time under Xavi, but over time, he again began to often play Barcelona matches on the bench. Puig only played 17 minutes in the Champions League and 8 minutes in the Europa League.
Xavi openly stated that Puig was losing a competition to other midfielders. For a specialist, he was only the fifth option after Gavi, Pedri, Nico Gonzalez and Frenkie de Jong. But Koeman also said that Puig did not work well enough in training. But then the main criticism fell on the coach for not trusting the pupil of La Masia. When Xavi said the same thing, everyone started pointing their fingers at the player.
Puig left Barcelona. In early August, it became known that the La Masia graduate was moving to Los Angeles Galaxy. The parties signed a contract for 3 years. The Catalans released the player for free, although he still had 1 year left on his contract. In return, Barcelona will receive the right to buy back the player or 50% of the amount of his next resale. The news was somewhat shocking. Few people leave Barcelona overseas at 22.
Despite the fact that he did not succeed at Barcelona, Puig still had offers from serious European clubs. Now his transfer is sceptical even in the USA, where people go from Europe mainly at the end of their careers. Puig does not have such a big name as, for example, Lorenzo Insigne or Gareth Bale. The Spaniard achieved nothing. Somewhere circumstances interfered with him, but a lot depends on the player himself. In MLS, Puig will have to start all over again, and who knows how this story will end.