Riqui Puig seems almost certain to leave in the upcoming summer transfer window, probably on a loan. Rumors point to it, but so does common sense. Once considered one of FC Barcelona’s brightest prospects, the midfielder has fallen behind the pecking order as other youngsters have zoomed past him.
Puig was tipped as one of the biggest promises to come out of La Masia in a while, and was hailed in his limited appearances under Ernesto Valverde as one to watch. His role grew when Valverde was sacked; Quique Setién used Puig often, almost in half of all matches.
However, his prominence did not grow further with the appointment of Ronald Koeman. The Dutchman told Puig to seek experience on loan, but the midfielder refused. Koeman did not freeze Puig out of the team, but his minutes were lowered at a time when usually, youngsters start to see their minutes increase.
Puig went from playing around 50% of all matches to closer to 40%, a drop he couldn’t have been happy about. There was some suggestion that with the appointment of Xavi, Puig would finally progress. After all, Xavi likes small, technical midfielders coming out of La Masia, right?
The truth was different. He’s become even less involved, playing in only 35% of the games Xavi’s been in charge. There are a few reasons, chief of all that midfielders younger than him are bypassing him in the pecking order. Pedri is lightyears ahead aged 19, while Gavi (17) and Nico González (20) have surpassed him as well more recently. Puig is 22 years old, for comparison.
Another reason is Xavi has managed mostly must-win games such as cup elimination games, or big matches to stay in the top four race. He’s had little time to give periphery players minutes, and often has been forced by circumstance to select certain players ahead of others.
Still, the biggest factor is Puig himself. Plainly, several coaches have looked at him and determined that while he does have talent, he still has too many weaknesses in his game to be a reliable part of a team like Barcelona.
A loan could help him work on his game and either return to Barcelona to have a bigger role, or find the right team for him to become a regular. Some say that the truth is that Puig should have accepted a loan while ago. His situation at the Camp Nou is not improving despite managerial changes.