Riqui Puig hype is in. The kid can ball. “Riqui is spectacular,” AC Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso beamed after facing him, “Even though [Barcelona] have players that look like kids, the way they handle the ball amazes me. It’s the beauty of football. It’s like poetry.
Xavi has already anointed him and pleaded for him to get more chances in the first team. BeIN Sports announcer Ray Hudson already has a nickname ready to use if the case arrives. We’re all taking language training courses trying to pronounce his name properly (it’s not “pweeg,” it’s more like “pooj.” or “pudge” but with an “oo” sound like “soon.”) And of course, Puig’s coach, Ernesto Valverde is a fan.
Such a fan, it seems, that Valverde himself is the reason Puig is a Barcelona player at all. El País says that about six months ago, Pep Segura had told the player and his father, Carles, that due to lacking the right physical development, the young midfielder wouldn’t be renewed.
That’s when Valverde stepped in, according to the article, saying he was intent on taking Puig to the North American tour and bringing him up to train with the first team from time to time. That gave Carles Puig the confidence to petition the club president directly. Josep Maria Bartomeu agreed and Riqui Puig extended his contract by three years, plus an option for two more.
In the intervening time, his performances for the youth team (including helping Barcelona win the UEFA Youth League) impressed everyone, including Segura, who is now a convert. Now, as he continues to show his ability in preseason, Puig’s future never looked brighter.