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What’s going on with Riqui Puig at Barcelona?

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The midfielder is struggling for game time under Quique Setien

SSC Napoli v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Quique Setien’s arrival at Barcelona in January felt like a breath of fresh air and looked really good news for Riqui Puig.

The Barca starlet hadn’t made a single appearance for the first team in 2019-20 under Ernesto Valverde and said in November he might have to make a decision on his future.

And then came Setien who was said to be a big fan of Puig and used his unveiling to explain he “will make a special effort to take care of Barca’s kids” and that “they will get the chance if they deserve it.”

Setien then proceeded to call up Riqui for his first training session with the new team. Cue smiles all around and optimism that finally one of the club’s most exciting young players would get a chance to prove himself in the first team:

Things looked even more promising when Puig made his first appearance of the season for the first team as a substitute in Setien’s first game in charge, the 1-0 win over Granada at Camp Nou.

It was a decent showing from the starlet too:

But that’s been about it for the youngster under Setien. His only other appearance in La Liga has been as a very late sub against Levante. He’s played a total of 22 minutes in the Spanish top flight so far in 2019-20.

Puig did see game time in the Copa del Rey but struggled at UD Ibiza, as did the whole team, and didn’t feature at all in the 1-0 defeat to Athletic.

Setien has been asked about Puig in his press conferences this season but has been pretty vague in his responses as to why the 20-year-old hasn’t seen more game time.

In an interview with La Vanguardia before El Clasico the Barca boss said Puig is great on the ball but needs to improve his defensive work. He also said:

“Football has become complicated and it’s no longer good enough just to be a great player, you can be someone who unbalances defences going forward but you have to have the capacity to defend, work and read situations.”

But it’s not as if Barcelona’s midfield has been functioning perfectly this season. The club are struggling to get the best out of Frenkie de Jong, Arturo Vidal has played on both flanks with varying degrees of success and Arthur’s campaign has been disrupted by injury.

Puig’s future looked really bright under Setien but has simply fizzled out since. He continues to train regularly with the first team, as do a number of other Barca B stars, but it’s not clear when his next opportunity to impress will arrive.