Ronald Koeman wasted little time in pulling a number of his new players into his new office at Barcelona’s Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper training ground. Luis Suarez was called in for a chat within days of the Dutchman’s appointment as the club’s new manager, with the Uruguayan told he would be sold. Lionel Messi was also informed he would no longer enjoy special privileges as Barca’s best and most influential player.
Riqui Puig was another called in for a chat with Koeman. Having broken into the Barcelona first team towards the end of the 2019/20 season, the future appeared bright for the young midfielder. Koeman, however, made it clear to Puig that his game time would be limited under his stewardship.
Koeman recommended Puig leave on loan. The player, however, chose to stay and fight for his place at Barcelona. This fight has turned out to be rather fruitless for Puig, though, with the 21-year-old making just two substitute appearances in La Liga this season. Koeman has stuck to his word.
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This led to speculation over a permanent departure, with Puig’s current contract set to expire at the end of the season. Arsenal were believed to be one potential suitor, but now Barcelona have reportedly tied Puig down to an extension that will keep him at the Camp Nou until the summer of 2023.
Puig would be wise to wait out the uncertainty currently swirling around Barcelona. This is a club in the midst of financial and political turmoil. Koeman’s job is far from secure. Indeed, the Dutchman is widely seen as a mere placeholder until such a time there is a new president with new ideas and a new manager to bring in.
There are few players as naturally talented as Puig at the Camp Nou right now. He has been compared to Andres Iniesta in terms of his playing style and the way he moves with the ball at his feet. While Pedri has somewhat stolen Puig’s thunder, breaking through to become a key figure for Barca in the number 10 role this season, the Catalans would be foolish to let a player of such obvious potential leave before he has even been given a chance to prove himself.
It’s easy to see why Mikel Arteta might want a player of Puig’s profile at Arsenal. The midfielder is inherently positive in his play, always looking for a forward pass or a way through the opposition defence. At 21, there is still plenty of scope for Puig to improve and mature. He is the sort of player Arsenal should be targeting.
He is also the sort of player Barcelona should be looking to harness. Puig is a homegrown talent who has come through La Masia. Along with Ansu Fati, he is the best to have emerged from the famed talent factory in a number of years. The footballing education he has received is clear in the way he plays. He is a quintessential Barca player.
If Barcelona aren’t willing to harness Puig, a player with the club’s DNA in his make up, who are they willing to harness? At a time when the Catalans’ identity is the crux of a presidential election, the future of Puig and whether or not he stays at the Camp Nou in the long-term has additional meaning attached.
Koeman won’t be around forever. The chances are he won’t even be at Barcelona beyond the summer. With this in mind, Puig must be patient. If a new Barca president is to restore the soul of the club, as so many fans hope, Puig could find himself a key part of the Catalans’ future again.
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