Riqui Puig came off the bench and played a starring role for Barcelona in their 1-0 win over Athletic on Tuesday and followed up his performance by saying all the right things after the match too.
The 20-year-old starlet spoke about his happiness at the club and how he wants to “give joy” to the Catalan giants when he’s on the pitch, according to Angel Perez at Mundo Deportivo.
“[I’m] very happy, especially for the minutes and the confidence Quique is giving me, and if we accompany this with good results, good minutes and a good rhythm, I’m happy to give joy to this club,” he said.
“It was a special game but at the same time very strange because it was the Sant Joan festival and we played listening to the firecrackers from outside. The explanation for the substitution was that Athletic had less rhythm and when they lost that rhythm it favored us because we could have more control and move the ball from one side to the other.”
Puig is widely regarded as one of Barcelona’s brightest young prospects but has struggled for game time in 2019-20. His appearance against Athletic was just his fifth of the season in La Liga, and all of them have come as a substitute.
Puig Praised After Impressive Cameo
The 20-year-old came in for plenty of praise for his performance against Athletic after helping turn the game in Barcelona’s favor. Manager Quique Setien praised Puig and 17-year-old striker Ansu Fati after the match, according to Sport’s Sergi Capdevila.
“It’s true that sometimes you can have doubts about the contribution of these kids in important games we have a the moment. But they are doing things well and will have chances to play more minutes That’s how you win a place in the team. (And having more options) permits players to rest or share minutes more and keep everyone fresher.”
Journalists and commentators were also impressed with Puig’s contribution during what was an important win for Barcelona that sent them back to the top of the table in La Liga ahead of Real Madrid’s clash with Real Mallorca.
Lots of buzz / hype / hope around Riqui Puig which has often seemed quite optimistic. He's made real difference tonight tho.
— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) June 23, 2020
Barça quicker and slicker moving ball after Riqui Puig came on. Surely he has to play more. Griezmann looking lost and Suárez still off pace. Ansu Fati bright late on, Rakitić the unlikely hero. FCB unconvincing, but came through tough test…#BarçaAthletic
— Ben Hayward (@bghayward) June 23, 2020
Riqui Puig MOTM. a colossal, game-changing performance. he needs to play more. https://t.co/v5FlzqBaE1
— Muhammad Butt (@muhammadbutt) June 23, 2020
Messi with the assist and Rakitic with the goal. But the tempo and pace in midfield has gone up tenfold ever since the introduction of Riqui Puig. Combative, illusive on ball and picks the right pass, not always the "fun" pass. So exciting.
— Jonas Giæver (@CheGiaevara) June 23, 2020
Riqui Ready to Start against Celta?
There is a chance that Puig will get his first La Liga start next time out against Celta Vigo at Balaidos. Sergio Busquets is suspended for the match, while Frenkie de Jong is out with a calf injury.
Puig’s performance could persuade Setien to give him the nod over Arthur. The only other senior midfielders available are Rakitic and Arturo Vidal, although the versatile Sergi Roberto could return after a rib injury.
Barcelona needs a strong finish to the season if they are to retain their crown, and Puig’s energy, enthusiasm, and invention may mean he gets to play a role in their final seven games.