One of the rare bright spots in a disappointing 2019-20 La Liga campaign for Barcelona has been the emergence of 20-year-old midfielder Riqui Puig.
The starlet has long been touted as one of the jewels of La Masia, the club’s famed youth academy, and has impressed in the first team this season in his 11 appearances.
However, the youngster is still not guaranteed a place in the first-team squad next season, according to M.Carmen Torres at Marca. Indeed the club have not decided where he will play his football.
“It’s not been decided whether Puig will stay with the first team or not next season because, while he’s one of their brightest prospects, the club want him to mature and get game time.”
The news comes as a surprise particularly as Puig has not been recalled to the Barcelona B side for their promotion play-off against Badajoz on Thursday. The decision to keep Puig with the first-team ahead of the return of the Champions League next month suggests he is very much in manager Quique Setien’s plans.
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Puig Shines in Alaves Victory
Puig struggled for game time at the start of the season under previous manager Ernesto Valverde but has seen more minutes under Setien. He certainly finished the season with a flourish, picking up his first two assists for the club in Sunday’s 5-0 win over Alaves.
The youngster came incredibly close to opening his account for the senior side at Mendizorrotza too. He fired a brilliant effort from range that slammed against the crossbar in the opening minutes.
Puig’s performance earned praise from Setien after the game. The 61-year-old told reporters that the midfielder and 17-year-old forward Ansu Fati are “certain to be the future of this club”.
Champions League Chance for Puig?
Indeed there is a good chance that Puig could get the chance to shine in the Champions League. Barcelona play Napoli in the second leg of their last-16 on August 8 and will be without Sergio Busquets and Arturo Vidal due to suspension.
Arthur appears to have been frozen out by Setien since agreeing to move to Juventus, leaving only Puig, Ivan Rakitic, and Frenkie de Jong as available options, although the versatile Sergi Roberto could also come into the midfield.
Puig’s impressive showing last time out against Alaves could tempt Setien into giving the youngster his first Champions League start of the season. The midfielder’s energy and enthusiasm have been a welcome sight for supporters, and if he did start the game it would be a big show of faith from Setien.