Riqui Puig has managed to revive what had become a stagnant career in MLS with the Los Angeles Galaxy. Puig has been one of the bright spots in a disappointing season.
However, the former Barcelona starlet has not forgotten about his past nor how he was treated by Xavi Hernandez during his final days with the Catalan side.
“Before the end of the season, we sat down and he told me that he didn’t count on me,” Puig told Diario Sport. “With the president it was different, he saw a future in me and wanted me to stay, but I wasn’t going to stay at a club where the coach didn’t want me.
“It hurt me when he didn’t let me train the first few weeks of [preseason]. The treatment was not good. I had a contract and I had to play as a player for the club where I was at. That annoyed me. I quickly looked for a way out and going to the other side of the world has been good for me.
Xavi Hernandez was not the only manager who didn’t play Puig as much as he would have wanted.
Neither Ernesto Valverde or Ronald Koeman seemed to have much faith in the young midfielder. His best run of form came during Quique Setien’s short tenure. But for whatever reason, in his time with the first team, Puig was never counted on by whoever was in charge at the time.
Many thought that would change when Xavi took over but that turned out to not be the case. Puig certainly believed he would at least get a chance to prove himself.
“He called me twice and my parents to go to Qatar (with him). There was a relationship between the families,” Puig said. “It hurt me as a player and as the friends I thought we were with Xavi’s family that I couldn’t succeed with him. This sometimes happens, but not being able to train the first week of preseason bothered me a lot.”
Expecting to play because you believe you are friends with the manager is perhaps not the way to go about things. At the end of the day, the manager plays who they believe will get them the best chance to succeed regardless of personal relationship.
While one could argue Puig should have been given more a chance, the fact is other midfielders rose through the rank and quickly outperformed him. Pedri and Gavi burst onto the scene and quickly became integral during Puig’s time there. Frenkie de Jong and Sergio Busquets weren’t going to be benched so the writing was on the wall.
Puig did show flashes here and there of his abilities but given the state of the club and needing quick success, betting on Puig when there were clearly better options wasn’t going to be a route Koeman or Xavi were going to take.
Puig’s time at Barcelona certainly didn’t go the way he, or those who saw something in him, would have wanted. He’s flourishing in Los Angeles and is young enough to where if he continues to perform, there is no doubt he will be getting offers from European club to return and prove his doubters wrong.