It’s official. Riqui Puig is a new LA Galaxy player. The midfielder signed for the MLS side. Barcelona put out a statement on Thursday night explaining that they reserve 50% of his next sale rights. He signed his contract until 2025.
✅️| OFFICIAL: Barcelona and Los Angeles Galaxy have reached an agreement for the transfer of Riqui Puig.
— Barça Buzz (@Barca_Buzz) August 4, 2022
The youngster leaves Barcelona, where he’s played since 2013, arriving as a Cadete. He soared up the ranks and debuted with the first team in the Copa del Rey against Cultural Leonesa in 2018.
For years, Barcelona fans saw Riqui Puig as a midfield gem that will mark an era in FC Barcelona. Even Xavi admitted that he admired his talent, and that he planned on using him.
He’s a member of the first team squad since 2020 but didn’t completely win over any of his coaches or secure a place in the first team. Valverde, Setien, Koeman and finally Xavi, didn’t give him a lot of game time. It was the latter who told him he was not needed any more.
How did we get here?
We never got a definite answer on why there’s such a big difference between how fans saw Riqui, and coaches. But it’s no secret that many coaches didn’t see him as someone that should play enough minutes. Furthermore, Riqui never became a vital part of the young Spanish national teams. So there must be a reason for that, right?
Growing up, Riqui used to play further up the field, as a number 10 or even a false 9. But it was Garcia Pimienta who took him and converted him into a central midfielder. And it worked, big time. The peak was winning the UEFA Youth League trophy. Afterwards, Riqui and Pimi took the next challenge of playing for Barcelona B.
After a successful spell in Barcelona B, many fans wanted to see him playing for the first team. But Valverde never gave him a proper chance.
Quique Setien did make Riqui Puig part of the squad, and he did well. But with Setien he could never make the next step.
When things started to go wrong
Somewhere in the Valverde-Setien period, Riqui Puig left him parents’ house, and started enjoying the night life of Barcelona. The city of Barcelona has a lot to offer for a young single person in Barcelona. But is it the best way to live for someone who wants to make it as an elite footballer? Of course not.
During the Covid-19 time, night clubs were closed. But at that period, Riqui became a close friend with Gerard Pique. Pique and Riqui used to take part in house parties. Afterwards, when the night clubs were opened again, there were rumors about Pique and Riqui renting VIP rooms in those high class night clubs.
Ronald Koeman never gave a chance to Riqui. And Riqui didn’t give him a reason to do that. But Koeman was the wrong man in that period, because he wasn’t going to educate the youngster.
In the meantime, Riqui Puig lost his momentum. Meanwhile, players like Pedri and Gavi came into the scene and took their opportunities. And little by little, Riqui lost his place in the pecking order. When Xavi arrived, it was too little, too late for Riqui. He was the last midfielder in the squad, and it was a lost cause.
The friendship between Riqui and Pique is still strong, and Riqui even signed with Pique’s agent.
It’s very hard to become an elite sportsman. It’s even harder to do that when your head is not in the right place.
What now for Riqui?
At 22, Riqui chose to cross the ocean and try his luck on the west coast of the states. There he will play with Javier Chicharito Hernandez, Douglas Costa or Victor Vazquez, a former Barca player, among others.
“We are pleased to welcome Riqui to the LA Galaxy, said their head coach Greg Vanney. “Riqui is a very technical and well educated player with incredible experience for his age. He will be a perfect fit for our group and style of play”.
Will Riqui Puig manage to boost his career? We will have to wait and see. But even in the worst case that he losses his place in the team, at least LA offers great night life…