It’s already two weeks into June and European club football has freshly ended. Transfer rumors and gossips are flooding the footballing world. Sporting directors of European clubs are crunching the numbers. A select few of talented players will definitely be signed in a hurry. Others not as talented will have to exercise a little patience. Fringe players who have been anything but useful will be shown the exit door. Surely, many deals will be completed in the coming hours, days and weeks. Certainly, several others won’t. The transfer market is now in full swing and departures and arrivals are taking place. And so as Barça’s board strives to acquire the finest talents amid all the economic hardships, and part with certain fringe players, a harmless question presents itself. What next for Riqui Puig?
Not a Youngster anymore
Riqui Puig was born 23 years ago. He’ll be 23 come August. He’s no longer the teenage prodigy who dazzled at the famed La Masia. But instead, he’s now a young adult who despite his best efforts over the last few seasons has had so little playing time. On December 5, 2018, Puig made his official debut in Barcelona’s resounding 4-1 win over Cultural Leonesa in the Copa Del Rey. Four years have almost passed.
And so far Riqui Puig has had two full seasons as a first team player for FC Barcelona. But still, after four long years and four different coaches, Puig has struggled to further his Barcelona career. He’s nowhere near the midfield linchpin he was once tipped to become. Riqui is nowhere near the starting XI. He’s nowhere near Xavi’s plans for next season. Instead, Puig’s closer to departing than ever before.
All around Riqui Puig, exciting talents are emerging. Take, for example, the likes of Pedri, Gavi, Araujo, Nico, Eric Garcia, Ferran Torres. Most of whom came to meet Puig in the Barça first team. But still have managed to surpass the former La Masia prodigy in status and importance. Across the last three seasons, Puig has made just 40 La Liga appearances for Barça. Most of which were brief appearances. And for proper context Pedri made 37 La Liga appearances in his first season as a Barça player.
Looking back from now into the past, examples of gifted La Masia players who failed to succeed in the first team abound. There was once Thiago Alcantara whose progress was involuntarily hindered by the excellent trio of Iniesta, Xavi and Busquets. Thiago had to depart for Bayern to realise his full potential. There were once Giovani dos Santos, Bojan, Marc Cucurella, Montoya. Could it possibly be that after four long years and four different coaches, maybe Puig’s failed development runs deeper?
Maybe it’s not just a matter of playing time. Maybe through the trained eyes of the four coaches who have tutored Puig, there’s a missing quality to all his natural gifts. Could he succeed elsewhere? Would he fit in and excel at, say, Ajax or Arsenal? It’s reported in the media that Benfica are monitoring Riqui Puig’s situation. Apparently Xavi’s plans don’t have the 22-year-old Spaniard in it.
Only time will tell if Puig stays or leaves, if he’ll depart permanently or on loan. But for now the question that’s begging for an answer is; what next for Riqui Puig?