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Trying to make sense of the Riqui Puig situation at Barcelona

Is there any satisfying way to explain why he might leave?

FC Barcelona v Girona - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

It is hard to understand the Riqui Puig situation. Ever since the first report came out claiming that Ronald Koeman told Puig that he wasn’t part of the manager’s plans, there’s been only one question on my mind: what the hell?

Then Koeman came out and tried to explain his reason for wanting Puig to go somewhere else, and even though he wants to stay and fight for his place, Riqui might be on his way to Ajax, where he’ll probably have an incredible season while Barça fans will continue to complain about Sergio Busquets and his decline and Miralem Pjanic just looking like an older, slightly better defensive version of Arthur.

So again, the question is: what the hell? Why? How? It’s really hard to explain or accept this, and here’s my attempt to make sense of it.

Ronald Koeman was brought in to begin a revolution at Barça, replacing older, less productive players with exciting youngsters ready to prove their worth. But the weeks passed, only Ivan Rakitic was sold and the squad looked pretty much the same as it always did, with the legends sticking around.

Crucially, Lionel Messi decided to stay. With Lionel Messi’s decision to stay, the massive exodus of older players that would have surely happened following Messi’s departure was cancelled. Now everybody wants to stay, because Messi is still there, is still the best player in the world and with that comes expectations.

As always, with this squad, titles are a must. Yes, this is the same squad that lost 8-2 to Bayern Munich and has no business being favorites or even contenders for the Champions League. And yes, this is the same squad that couldn’t win La Liga last season. But this is still a squad with giant names who are expected to do big things, and Ronald Koeman being in charge of such squad has no other choice: he has to win every game.

And in Ronald Koeman’s mind, winning every game is hard when you rely on young players. That’s why he always stuck to players like Ryan Babel and Daley Blind while coaching the Dutch national team even though there were younger, better players in those positions ready to step up. But Koeman had a tough job: make the Dutch national team a force again, and they needed to win many big games against big nations to prove their worth. They did, and Koeman leaves the Netherlands in a much better position than he found them.

Because of circumstances beyond his control, mainly the incompetence of the board to actually “revolutionize” the squad, Koeman has to be a winner right away, and in his mind the best way to do it is to stick with the more experienced pieces of his squad, and Riqui Puig finds himself in the unfortunate situation of having to compete with plenty of experienced players in his position.

In Koeman’s mind, it’s better for Puig to play every game somewhere else and gain experience for a season. Less than a year from now, Messi is leaving. And if Messi is leaving, it’s quite safe to expect that Busquets, Gerard Piqué and Jordi Alba will leave. The path will finally be clear from the youngsters, and Puig will come back more experienced, physically stronger and ready to start every game.

Here’s the thing, though: all of that is pure bullshit. Riqui Puig is good enough to play for Barcelona NOW, and the fact Ronald Koeman would rather have Georginio Wijnaldum instead of Puig is an insult. And Sergio Busquets and Miralem Pjanic are not that much better than Puig to warrant him leaving the damn club. In fact, they might not be better at all.

I thought the Koeman Era was about guts, and courage. Cojones. Turns out it’s the same old same old. Do I want Koeman out? No. He deserves a chance to coach this team. Don’t count me in as excited for this season, though.

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