FC Barcelona

Riqui Puig's penalty heroics showed Ronald Koeman what he is missing

Jan 14, 2021, 11:45 AM GMT
Riqui Puig
Riqui Puig has made another statement of intent | Fran Santiago/Getty Images
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For the love of all that is holy, play Riqui Puig.

That's the message which many Barcelona fans have been screaming to the heavens for what feels like an eternity, yet their cries have consistently been ignored by those in power at Barcelona.

A 21-year-old midfielder, Puig is a fan-favourite because he came through the famous La Masia academy, but his talent has also impressed fans. Some have described him as the most naturally gifted midfielder the club has seen since Xavi and Andres Iniesta.

Riqui Puig
Puig is still waiting for his chance | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

However, for whatever reason, that hysteria hasn't been matched by the Barcelona managers. Despite making his debut in December 2018, Puig has just 22 appearances to his name and has started no more than eight games in total, with Ernesto Valverde, Quique Setien and Ronald Koeman all prefering more experienced options.

Koeman's handling of Puig has been particularly egregious. The Dutchman waltzed into the club and instantly told the youngster that he was free to leave, but Puig rejected that shout, kept his head down and wanted to prove the boss wrong.

He's not had many opportunities to do that, but he rose to the occasion when tasked with being Barcelona's hero in Wednesday's Super Cup semi-final win over Real Sociedad.

With the game tied at 1-1, Puig was introduced for extra-time, but it was in the penalty shoot-out where the Spaniard stood up to be counted. He bagged Barcelona's fifth penalty, booking the team's spot in the final after Antoine Griezmann's ballooned effort had put that at risk.

"I had four names on the paper and I have asked who wanted to shoot the fifth, the last one to win," Koeman revealed (via Marca). "And Riqui raised his hand decisively."

This is an unwanted kid who has the weight of the world on his shoulders, but he chose to add to that pressure. When nobody else wanted the responsibility, Puig commanded the spotlight to show that he can be relied upon.

To not only welcome that pressure, but actually live up to it and score the winning penalty, speaks volumes of Puig's character, and it's time somebody at Camp Nou actually listened to him.

Ronald Koeman
Koeman is reluctant to listen to Puig | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Puig is just crying out for an extended run in the team to show what he can do. He knows he can make it at Barcelona, and under the right management, he will.

His plan is to bide his time and wait until the new president comes in. Hopefully, someone will see sense and realise that the 21-year-old is the future of Barcelona. Xavi is known to be an enormous fan of Puig, and his return to Camp Nou could be the catalyst for change.

"I've never lost my smile, I'm a happy guy. Even though I'm not playing things are going well, I have my family, my health and I can have no complaints," said Puig. "If Ronald gives me minutes I'll be grateful and make the most of it, and if not I'll keep working.

Riqui Puig
Puig hopes to win over the new president | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

"I'll never give up, after so many years at the club and the effort I've made to reach the first team, and now I'm here I'm not giving up now."

When you're in a rebuild, you need characters like Puig. He's right there. For the love of all that is holy, play Riqui Puig.

For more from ​Tom Gott, follow him on ​Twitter!

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