Riqui Puig is determined to stay at Barcelona and prove coach Ronald Koeman wrong after the Dutchman advised the 21-year-old to go out on loan next season.
The midfielder was surprisingly left out of the Barcelona squad for Saturday’s Joan Gamper Trophy match against Elche at the Camp Nou amid speculation Koeman had told him he was not part of his plans for the new campaign.
Koeman addressed the speculation after the match and said he had advised Puig to go out on loan because he would struggle for game time if he stayed at the Camp Nou due to the intense competition for places.
“It’s not true that I don’t count on him. I was speaking with Riqui Puig yesterday. For me, the young players have to play. They can’t not play.
“That’s for Riqui, for Aleña, for Pedri… they have to play. I told Riqui that he has a future here but it’s going to be tough at the moment because of competition in his position. I recommended that he goes on loan. At 20, the young players need to play.”
According to Ivan San Antonio at Sport, Puig has no intention of leaving Barcelona this summer and “wants to stay, has a contract, and is willing to show the coach that he is wrong.”
Indeed the 21-year-old “only thinks about gaining the trust of Koeman and showing him that he is ready for any challenge.”
Puig did feature in Barcelona’s first two pre-season friendlies against Nastic and Girona, looking lively in both games, and Koeman’s decision to axe the youngster from his squad for the game against Elche brought anger from fans.
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Puig Facing Battle For Game Time
Puig has already demonstrated his quality in the first team for Barcelona, and Koeman’s comments that the youngster would be better off somewhere else next season will be unpopular with fans.
Yet it’s not the first time Puig has been advised to think about a loan. Patrick Kluivert told Sport in November 2019 that “it’s better for Riqui to go out on loan” and recommended signing for Ajax.
Puig was quick to respond to Kluivert’s comments and make it clear that he was not interested in departing the Catalan giants.
“He [Kluivert] has not spoken to me. There is also Abidal, who is above him so you have to speak with Abidal,” he said.
“At all times I have said that I want to stay at Barça… At the moment I’m not considering leaving the club and everything is going very well. I’m going to stay here.
“Some manager has talked to my father, but they have not made it very clear what they want to do with me. The club has always trusted me a lot, they want me to triumph here and they see me as an investment.”
The 21-year-old now looks ready to take on his doubters once again but will have to impress on the rare chances he gets in the first team. Barcelona have already waved goodbye to Ivan Rakitic and are expected to offload Arturo Vidal before the close of the transfer window but still have plenty of midfield options in the squad.