Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman has raised eyebrows by leaving Riqui Puig out of his squad for Saturday’s La Liga clash against Alaves.
The 21-year-old is the surprise omission from the travelling party with Barcelona B’s Konrad de la Fuente included in the list instead.
Puig is popular among supporters and is one of the club’s most highly-rated young players. Yet he’s struggling for game time at Barcelona and his only appearance this season so far has come as a late substitute in the win over Celta Vigo.
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Koeman Explains Puig Omission
Koeman was asked about Puig’s absence from the squad in his pre-match press conference on Friday. The Dutch coach explained why he has decided to leave the young midfielder out.
The decision to leave Puig behind will be a real blow to the youngster after he was officially promoted to the first-team squad at the start of the season from Barcelona B.
Puig has looked in good shape in training but clearly hasn’t done enough to convince Koeman that he deserves a place in his team as of yet.
The Dutch coach has shown he’s been willing to trust in youth too with teenagers Sergino Dest, Pedri, and Ansu Fati featuring regularly in the early weeks of the season for Barcelona.
Puig to Go Out on Loan?
Koeman did warn Puig at the start of the season that it might be better to go out on loan in order to play regularly, as reported by Sport.
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.”
Puig instead opted to stay and fight for his place. He told Radio Cope earlier this month that he though Koeman was “going to give me opportunities” and that he was confident he would “end up playing,” as reported by Marca.
Yet it’s difficult to see Puig playing much this season other than in Copa del Rey games when Koeman is likely to rest his senior stars and offer his fringe players some rare game time.
As such it may be that Puig reassesses his future at Barcelona once the transfer window reopens in January. The talented midfielder would surely not lack for options if he decided to head out on loan in a bid to revive his stalling career.
Sport reported back in April that clubs such as Celta Vigo, Real Betis, Granada, and Ajax were all interested in the youngster as well as teams from the Premier League and the Bundesliga. Puig may therefore have a difficult decision to make about his future in January.