THE EVOLUTION OF RIQUI PUIG: A RARE TALENT OF LA MASIA

7 min read
Evolution of Riqui Puig

Evolution of Riqui Puig

Riqui Puig, a rare talent from La Masia has progressed up lately in the first team. The 20 years old midfielder has now caught eyes of football lovers across the entire globe. He is considered to be the one who has got the Barca DNA and who can fit into the Barca Philosophy of football. The evolution of Riqui Puig in the recent league games as a regular starter has forged ahead the hope that he will reinvigorate the Balgaurana’s midfield.

LA MASIA, THE FOOTBALL FACTORY

The Academy of Football Club Barcelona, often referred ‘La Masia’ is known as a football factory. The evolution of Riqui Puig from La Masia to Barcelona is not the new thing. It has been producing the rare talents like Lionel Messi, Andreas Iniesta, Xavi, Sergio Busquets and Carles Puyol since long time. Barcelona has won numerous titles with them, but these days the La Masia products are struggling to fit into the main team. The fall in the number of La Masia talents playing for the first team in the recent seasons is often regarded as the reason for the downfall of Barcelona.

From Right Iniesta, Messi and Xavi
From left Iniesta, Messi and Xavi during La Masia days

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Following is the analysis of the La Masia Youth Vs Bought in Players in the last ten seasons:

La Masia Graduates Vs External Players. Credit: Totalfootballanaysis.com
La Masia Graduates Vs External Players. Credit: Totalfootballanaysis.com

The graph portrays how the club has failed to promote its players in the senior team and spent a tremendous amount of money on buying the players from other teams. It has also been a crucial reason for the financial trauma that the club has been facing in recent years.

Many football pundits acknowledge La Masia & Barcelona B as a producer of rare talents. However, La Masia graduates have been striving to get minutes in the senior team. Many promising talents from La Masia have been compelled to make their fortune elsewhere. Players like Juan Miranda, Carles Alena have been loaned out of the club. The promising talent, Marc Cucurella no longer belongs to the Barcelona after triggering the buy option of 6 million Euro by Getafe. But the story of Riqui Puig has been somewhat different. He has turned down offers from Tottenham Hotspur and Al Sadd. It seems like the evolution of Riqui Puig was inevitable and he seems destined to play for Football Club Barcelona.

Riqui Puig in with number 8 jersey.
Riqui Puig in with number 8 jersey at Barcelona.
THE EVOLUTION OF RIQUI PUIG

Puig moved to La Masia from Jabac Terrassa in 2013, the same club from where Sergio Busquets arrived in Barcelona. He patiently bided his time for almost five years to make a debut in a Segunda Division in February 2018. Puig assisted a goal for his fellow teammate Denis Suarez in a first-team debut match on 5th December 2018. After four months of assisting a goal in a Copa Del Rey, he made out his Laliga debut on 13th April 2019 against SD Huesca. Puig has appeared in 56 matches for Barcelona B and netted two goals. While he has made 12 appearances and yet to score for the senior team of Barcelona.

When Riqui Puig made his first-team debut against the Cultural Leonesa and lived up to a spectacular performance. He got emotional about it after the cameo performance and he said to the reporters,

“It’s a debut I dreamed about. A win and an assist on top of how well the team played. I used to come to the Camp Nou when I was three years old, imagining what it would be like to play here. Ernesto has given me the opportunity, and the reality is a dream come true.”

In a Quique Setien’s first Barcelona match against Granada, Riqui Puig was Setien’s first substitute, and he played a crucial role in Messi’s only goal of the match. Puig started a move after winning a ball, and the same movement led to winning goal in the game. Riqui Puig completed more passes (35) than any opposition player did in the entire game even after coming at the 71st minute of the game. Since that evolution of Riqui Puig, he has beome the regular starter in Quique Setien’s starting eleven.

Barcelona's forward Lionel Messi (L) is congratulated by Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Riqui Puig after scoring the opening goal during the Spanish league football match between FC Barcelona and Granada FC via Getty Images
Lionel Messi (L) is congratulated by Riqui Puig after scoring the opening goal in football match between FC Barcelona and Granada FC via Getty Images

STYLE OF PLAY

With an injury of De Jong, deal of Arthur to the Juventus and inconsistent deliveries of Ivan Rakitic, Puig has been a choice in the starting Eleven to Seiten. The Spaniard is proficient at control, composure, passing, attacking creativity and awareness. Riqui Puig has impressed Quique Setién after fitting in his 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 line ups so effortlessly. He always focuses on the right space at the right time. Puig has also got imposing dribbling ability which has contributed a lot in making some attacking moves, especially when the opponents play the defensive games. In his appearances, he has also shown his potential to press the opponent and regain the ball on numerous occasions.

Riqui Puig’s favourite position is at left central midfielder. As per his appearances in Barca B, Riqui Puig has the best progressive runs per 90 (5.97) by a distance and is second in both Expected Goals and shots per 90 values (2.18 & 1.65, respectively). Skills and abilities like these in the very young age have contributed  in the evolution of Riqui Puig  as a profound footballer and have made him one of the rarest talent in the Barcelona Academy.

Heat-map of Riqui Puig during season 19-20
Heat-map of Riqui Puig for season 19-20 via Sofascore.com

Despite having a not so substantial physique, his moves on and off the ball have been exceptional. Puig has adept eyes to get into more extensive spaces and create more chances. Moreover, he has a remarkable first touch and out-standing ball control in overall.

 “Puig reminded us of a young Andres Iniesta.”
– Commentator (during the match vs Celta Vigo)

A SILVER LINING IN THE CLOUD

After the loss against Osasuna, Barcelona lost the title to its rival Real Madrid. Season 19-20 has been quite horrible for the club. If Barça don’t win the Champions League, it will be the first trophy-less season since 2007/08. The last time they did not win any trophy was Rijkaard’s last season as Barça coach. Despite this chaos, the evolution of Riqui Puig has come out as the silver lining. People have now started to believe that Puig tying up with De Jong will revitalize the numb midfield of Barcelona. So, the evolution of Riqui Puig who has got the Barca DNA coursing through his veins is something to cherish for the Cules.

What do they have to say about the boy?

Many football legends have already recognized the talent of this rising man. All it started from an International Champions Cup clash with AC Milan in August 2018. In the post-match conference pre-season game against the Milan.

“Riqui is spectacular. Even though Barca have players that look like kids, the way they handle the ball amazes me. It’s the beauty of football. It’s like poetry.”
-Gattuso

Even the Barca Legend Xavi could not stop himself from appreciating the young talent.

“The truth is that he is a boy who breathes talent. He has self-confidence, personality, does not hide and asks for the ball.”
-Xavi.

The Barcelona presidential candidate Victor Font has also expressed his opinion regarding the connection of Xavi as a coach and future prospect of Riqui Puig.

Not only Xavi, but also Iniesta got some insight of the evolution of Riqui Puig. He had some words to motivate and stimulate the young boy to play the beautiful game.

“Keep playing at Barca B and take advantage of every game you have. If you get to the first team, keep doing the same, take advantage of each game. You have to trust your talent and learn from the ones next to you.”
-Iniesta (on Riqui puig)

Cesc Fabregas, who himself came through the La Masia Academy praised the Spaniard midfielder and gave a hope that the Puig can be the successor of the legendary man, Andreas Iniesta.

“Riqui Puig can become like Iniesta, for example, if coaches trust him. I know that comparing him with Andres are big words, but such a player could cost a fortune in today’s market. I’m sure Riqui has what it takes to succeed, he just has to have the right attitude and keep improving.”
-Fabregas(after his impressive performance against Granada)

Wind-up

Last but not least, a 20 years old having such a rare talent and a potential of safeguarding the Barca Philosophy is always a joy to watch. Let’s hope that current season becomes the season of evolution of Riqui Puig as the finest midfielder in Barcelona. Let’s hope he will give new life to the midfield and help to live the glory days of Tiki-Taka again. It will be too early to call him next Xavi or Iniesta. He is quite young to carry such legendary names in his back. He has a great mind to play this beautiful game, let the lad manifest the “Evolution of Riqui Puig” in the glorious history of Football Club Barcelona.

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