It’s been three long years since Gennaro Gattuso labelled Barcelona’s Riqui Puig ‘spectacular.’
The then 18-year-old looked every inch the typical La Masia graduate, as his darting movements, incisive running and inch-perfect passing elevated him towards a man-of-the-match showing against AC Milan.
It remains his best moment in a Barca shirt, and that really encompasses why he needs to move on from his boyhood club now if he wants to make a go of his professional career.
Ronald Koeman’s attitude towards him again this year leaves him in no doubt that there is no future for him with the blaugranes.
Let’s not pin all of this on Koeman though.
Quique Setien before him and Ernesto Valverde before that were similarly unenthused by Riqui.
Perhaps it’s a matter of attitude as much as application. After all, Koeman has previously hinted that there’s a huge ego in play that belies the player’s lack of importance to the squad.
Of course, there will always be those culers who believe that if he’s never given the chance, how on earth is he supposed to show what he can do.
There’s an element of truth in that, but you can count on the fingers of one hand the amount of times he has affected a game when given the opportunity.
The only one that readily springs to mind is in January 2020, when coming on late in Setien’s first game against Granada.
That match wasn’t anything to write home about and was heading to a boring 0-0 draw on a freezing night - trust me, I was there - and then Riqui came on and warmed the crowd up with his cameo, Leo Messi scoring the winner.
I can’t think of any other games where he’s done something of note, however, and therein lies his problem. He’s too lightweight and not decisive enough in the big moments.
Pedri, four years his junior, has been markedly more effective from the get go, whilst Frenkie de Jong and Sergio Busquets aren’t being dislodged from their own midfield positions anytime soon.
Even when any of the three are unavailable, there are plenty of other options available to the manager - eg Sergi Roberto, Philippe Coutinho, Nico Gonzalez and even Gavi.
Even on debut against Getafe, Gavi looked like he’d been playing in the Barca midfield for years. There was a natural flair to his play, that’s now missing from Riqui’s, who is consistently trying too hard, and therefore forcing things.
His ship has long since sailed, and this bloody-mindedness of seemingly wanting to come out on top in a battle of wills with the manager is only making his own personal situation worse.
Admit defeat, Riqui. Your time is up.