Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez has admitted he feels “sad” about not being able to offer midfielder Riqui Puig more game time at the Camp Nou this season.
Puig was told to leave the club on loan by former manager Ronald Koeman and might have hoped for more first-team chances following Xavi’s arrival. However, the midfielder has only made one start so far this season and continues to play a bit-part role.
Xavi told a pre-match press conference ahead of Barcelona’s trip to Elche in La Liga on Sunday, March 6 that competition for places makes it difficult for him to select the talented 22-year-old.
“Riqui is a player who is training well. It’s sad for me that I can’t give him more minutes,” he explained. “He has players in front of him like Gavi, Pedri, Nico and Frenkie as well. It’s not a question of level of performance, he’s training well, improving individually, but there’s great competition for him.”
Puig has only made three appearances since the turn of the year and is likely to start Sunday’s match against Elche on the bench once again after falling down the pecking order at the Camp Nou.
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Puig’s Game Time Decreasing
There has been speculation that Puig will leave Barcelona in the summer to look for more regular game time elsewhere, and it’s certainly true his game time at the Camp Nou is decreasing.
The midfielder has managed just 300 minutes under Xavi, compared to 743 under previous manager Koeman, and 578 under Quique Setien, as reported by German Bona at Diario Sport.
The emergence of youngsters Pedri, Gavi, and Nico Gonzalez has seen Puig loss prominence at the Camp Nou, and his inability to break into the team under Barca’s last three managers does not bode well for his future.
More Competition In Midfield?
Competition for places in the Barcelona midfield also looks set to increase. The Catalan giants are expected to bring in AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie in the summer transfer window on a free transfer.
Barcelona have also confirmed that 18-year-old Pablo Torre will join at the end of the campaign. Xavi spoke about the new signing at his news conference and said he will get chances in the first team.
“We followed Pablo, we’ve seen him play. He’s a natural talent. He can play as an interior, on the wing, he’s got great passing ability, can score, play with both feet, set-pieces as well, he’s very young, only 18, and he has the potential to play at Barca for many years,” he said. “He’s a very humble player. He’s a signing for the present and the future. He’ll work with the first team but if he doesn’t play he can have a role with Barca B. At that age it’s not easy to play with the first team so he can play for Barca B as well.”
The arrival of Torre, who is four years younger than Puig, is more bad news for popular midfielder and it’s looking increasingly likely he will play his football away from the Camp Nou next season.