Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman expressed his frustration at headlines concerning young midfielder Riqui Puig after Saturday’s 4-0 win over Granada in La Liga.
Koeman was asked about the youngster after the match, after Puig enjoyed another bright cameo off the bench in the second half, and made his feelings about the way he feels the midfielder’s situation at the club is portrayed.
The Barcelona boss was asked about potential January exits ahead of the match and once again advised his club’s young players, who aren’t playing regularly, to consider a loan move.
The decision is up to each individual player but, without saying names, I think for some players due to their youth and their need to get minutes I think it’s tough here. They need to look for other teams and improve as a player. We have respect for players when they spend time away. I’ve always said youngsters need to play and can’t be a year without playing at a high level.
Puig is widely regarded as one of the club’s most promising young players. However, he has struggled for game time in 2020-21 under Koeman. The Dutch coach brought him on for the final 17 minutes against Granada in what was just his third appearance in La Liga this season.
Praise for Puig
The young Barcelona star is popular among supporters and his rare outing against Granada unsurprisingly drew more praise and calls for Koeman to start Puig on a more regular basis.
Puig has impressed on the rare occasions he has been offered first-team minutes but still doesn’t seem to have done enough to convince Koeman he’s worth a place in the starting XI.
Koeman’s treatment of the youngster is confusing considering he has given other young players plenty of minutes in 2020-21. Oscar Mingueza, Ronald Araujo, Sergino Dest, and Pedri have all enjoyed regular football.
The Dutch coach has also called up 17-year-old Ilaix Moriba up for first-team training regularly and included the midfielder in the squad for the first time against Granada.
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Chances Soon for Puig?
Yet a busy fixture list suggests Puig could be handed more chances to impress in the coming weeks. Barca’s next game is a Spanish Super Cup semi-final against Real Sociedad, and Koeman could use the match to rotate his squad and keep players fresh for his team’s La Liga campaign.
If Barca win they go on to play either Real Madrid or Athletic in the final and then head back home for a Copa del Rey third-round clash against third-tier minnows Cornella.
The game against Cornella is likely to see Koeman make wholesale changes to his team and could offer Puig the chance to make his first start of the season. Barca will be huge favorites to win the match but will be aware that Cornella dumped Atletico Madrid out in the last round with a shock 1-0 win.