How refreshing it was to see another young player so in tune with his surroundings.
Riqui Puig’s first-team debut was long overdue and though Ernesto Valverde is right to ease him in gently, there was enough to suggest Barca have another real player on their hands.
The comparisons with Iniesta need to stop right now, mind.
So often, young players at the beginning of their professional careers are burdened by the weight of expectation.
More so at Barcelona where the cules desire to anoint a new star is almost rabid.
First Carles Aleña, today Riqui Puig. We all miss that times when the only thing we talked about was La Masia players rising from month to month to be our first choice in the lineup. Both use their opportunities well to be talked about after their performances in the first team.— La Masia (@Youngcules) December 6, 2018
Puig, just like Carles Alena, must be allowed to blossom at his own pace and to adapt to the rigours of elite level combat over 12-18 months, not six.
Of course, if he continues to exhibit such high levels of skill and in-game knowledge as he showed both against Cultural and in the pre-season tour, the clamour for a more regular inclusion will be constant.
What is immediately noticeable about his general play is the ease with which Puig finds space, and much like his more senior contemporaries, nothing is forced. Just a natural fluidity that is easy on the eye and a joy to watch.
Passes like the one to Denis Suarez merely underscore the talent Puig possesses.
NICE PASS, KID! Barça's 19-year-old midfielder Riqui Puig — who's making his official debut tonight — got his first career assist on Denis's goal a few minutes ago! pic.twitter.com/orGnd0X2iw— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) December 5, 2018
His decision making is also an area that sets him apart, and it’s rare to see him overplay his role. Such simplicity at his age is one of the things that has everyone most excited.
Compare and contrast him with Suarez. Yes, the latter scored a couple of goals against Cultural, but far too often Denis goes for the more difficult option.
Taking on another defender when the square ball is the easier one to be played.
Perhaps being schooled in La Masia gives players like Puig and Alena an unfair advantage. After all, how often is it said that playing for the Blaugranes is so much more difficult to anywhere else.
Watching Carles Aleñá and Riqui Puig play it becomes immediately evident from the way they receive the ball, distribute it and move into space (primed to receive again) that they're La Masia graduates. And yet, without the benefit of that schooling, Arthur has those very traits.— Sameer (@Sameer_R13) December 6, 2018
These youngsters have been playing the same way for 10 years or more, so to expect others to come in and learn the ropes almost overnight is inherently wrong. But it still takes a special talent to make that leap up from Barca B and stay at senior level.
So, back to my original point.
Let’s embrace Puig as one of our own but allow his development to progress incrementally.
We’ll have one hell of a player on our hands if so.