EUROPEAN FOOTBALL

Pablo Gavi The La Masia Wonderkid

Julian Araujo

Gavi is a polarizing figure among football fans. Instead, for Barcelona supporters, he is the all-action midfielder that Xavi needs—a relentless pest off the ball who can pick a deadly pass or produce a moment of magic when he has it. For his manager, he might just be the perfect blend—the kind of midfielder he loves to have and knows other teams hate.

La Masia Wonderkid – Gavi

Origins in the Barca team This debate didn’t really exist in the early days of his Barca career. Like many from La Masia, Gavi was chucked into the first team during Barca’s dark days, called up by Ronald Koeman in the season after Lionel Messi embarked on his unsuccessful Parisian journey. The arrival was a long time coming for the then-17-year-old. He had joined Barca’s academy at just 11 and routinely played four years ahead of his age group. And after watching Ansu Fati graduate into the Barca side before him, Gavi seemed primed to be next.

Managers Praise the Teenager

By the October 2021 international break, Barcelona were ninth in La Liga, five points behind Real Madrid, and at the bottom of their Champions League group without a single point to their name. Koeman admitted at the time that Gavi was pretty much the only good thing about the Blaugrana’s season. “He’s shown, despite his age, that he knows how to play,” Koeman said in a press conference before Barca’s 3-1 win over Valencia. Spain manager Luis Enrique agreed. He thrust Gavi straight into his starting line-up for the Nations League semi-final on October 6, handing him the No. 9 shirt and deploying him in a midfield that also included Sergio Busquets and Koke.

Don the National Colors

Gavi played 83 minutes, and La Roja won 2-1. He started again four days later in the final, playing 74 minutes in a loss to France. Soon, like many Spanish youngsters, Gavi captured the attention of the global footballing world. Here was another young midfielder, a technical kid from the same academy that produced Xavi and Iniesta. Luis Enrique did little to temper expectations. The manager made Gavi the youngest Spain debutant ever and praised his showing after. “He plays like he does at school or in the garden of his house, and it is a pleasure to have a player of this quality and personality,” Luis Enrique said in October 2021.

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