Spain coach refuses to take blame for Gavi's ACL injury

  • Gavi suffered torn ACL on international duty with Spain
  • Coach Luis de la Fuente insists he is not at fault for the injury
  • Barcelona boss Xavi has previously blamed the schedule
Gavi is set to miss the rest of the season & Euro 2024
Gavi is set to miss the rest of the season & Euro 2024 / Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/GettyImages

Spain coach Luis de la Fuente has insisted that the national team is not at fault for Barcelona midfielder Gavi suffering a season-ending ACL injury this month, with the 19-year-old expected to also be ruled out of Euro 2024 in the summer.

Gavi was injured in the first half of Spain's dead rubber qualifier against Georgia, suffering a "complete tear" of the ACL in his right knee and also injuring the lateral meniscus.

Questions have been asked whether Gavi, who has already played 138 senior games for club and country while still a teenager, needed to be on the pitch given that Spain's qualification was already secure. Worse still, he had already taken a knock to the same knee, been treated and returned to the pitch to continue playing, before doing the damage that forced him off after 26 minutes.

De la Fuente has stressed there was no reason to believe that Gavi was injured from the first knock.

"I asked him what it was like at half-time, when he got to the locker room. He told us that in the first he hadn't noticed anything," the coach told El Larguero on Cadena SER.

"The doctors did the relevant tests on the pitch, they didn't see anything and decided that he should return to the field. If we had seen an injury…Gavi does not enter the field for even a second."

De la Fuente went on to state that at no point was a request made to either he or the Spanish football federation (RFEF) for Gavi to sit it out against Georgia.

"No one asked me that Gavi not play that second game with the national team. Neither me nor the RFEF, I understand that if [Barcelona] had called, they would have told me," he explained.

Gavi picked up the ACL injury in a dead rubber Euro 2024 qualifier
Gavi picked up the ACL injury in a dead rubber Euro 2024 qualifier / Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/GettyImages

"I always have a maxim: when they are with me, we only think about the national team. When they leave, I tell them to only think about their club. Gavi was going to play only 45 [minutes] in that second game [against Georgia]. That was the idea we had. We wanted other teammates to play. We always take care of the footballer's health. I am not suspected of anything, all my actions follow that path."

There has additional scrutiny on Gavi's injury, predicted by leading knee surgeon Dr. Ramon Cugat to rule him out for between seven and nine months, given the persistent problems endured by Barcelona and Spain teammate Pedri after playing so many games at such a young age. At one stage, Pedri went from a 52-game club season with Barcelona, straight into Euro 2020 and then the Olympics one after the next.

"To say that Pedri's subsequent injuries are the fault of going to the Olympic Games seems a little miserable to me," De la Fuente said. "There is a calendar that is signed in July and in which all the actors involved agree. There is no point in complaining in November or March. If we don't like it, we are going to change it, but we all have something at stake. I don't call players to the national team so they can rest, I summon them because the best have to be in the national team."

Barcelona coach Xavi refused to blame De la Fuente for Gavi's injury, instead pointing the finger firmly at the match schedule that asks players to play so many games in the first place.

"I don't see a problem with the coach's management, but rather with the match schedule. The schedule is very demanding and is the main reason for the injury, beyond being accidental. Schedule, games, minutes. There is no controversy with De la Fuente," he explained.