‘Gavi: The Barcelona player who infuriates Real Madrid fans the most’, screamed the headline in Marca on Sunday.
The Spanish media outlet went on to describe how the 18-year-old is a fearless competitor in the Barca midfield, adding an edge that’s allowed the Catalan giants to establish a significant lead at the top of La Liga.
“It’s been a while that I’ve been seeing news reports that Gavi was a butcher,” said Xavi before the game. “I know where the shots are coming from. We have to protect the player. He is training very well. He’s going in hard, but he’s not going in with bad faith.”
As with most of these things, the initial accusation contains more than a grain of truth. Gavi has carved out an on-field niche as the type of player who’d steal your last drop of milk and leave the empty carton in the fridge.
Put him in a competitive setting and Gavi becomes the type of character with the shamelessness of your family cat strolling into the living room with muddy paws and a mutilated sparrow hanging from its mouth.
And the diminutive Andalucian was up to his usual tricks as Barcelona attempted to end Madrid’s title hopes in front of a fervent Camp Nou.
After falling behind to an early Ronald Araujo own goal, Xavi’s side were sentenced to 90 minutes in the footballing equivalent of a tumble dryer on a fast setting.
Barcelona suffered, they were frequently exposed but held on stubbornly. Sergi Roberto’s equaliser notched up the tension to unbearable levels.
Happily, Gavi was unaffected. His midfield performance was a masterclass in exasperating opponents, with little niggles and dives that wouldn’t look out of place in the Olympic Games.
The piece de resistance came as Madrid broke during the game’s dying embers. As Karim Benzema sped forward, Dani Ceballos used the opportunity to leave his stud marks as souvenirs in the legs of Robert Lewandowski.
Ceballos would’ve got away with it too, if it wasn’t for Barca’s pesky kid. As the midfielder trotted away from the scene of the crime, Gavi administered his own form of justice with a gloriously unsubtle shoulder barge.
Minutes later, Frank Kessie scored Barca’s winner. Justice indeed.
Ceballos qui s’en prend à Lewy et Gavi qui vient lui remettre les idées en place 🤝 pic.twitter.com/pS8Nyf75hm
— 𝐀𝐁𝐃𝐎𝐔 🇲🇦🇳🇱 (@MarshallFCBB) March 19, 2023
“The league is not decided but it’s a huge win of course,” Xavi said afterwards as Barcelona moved 12 points clear of their arch-rivals. “There are 12 games left, we don’t feel like champions yet.
“I think we deserved the win and we were better than Real Madrid, we created more chances. It’s a step forward and I’m very happy for the players.
“We’re having an extraordinary league season. Our players suffer and I’m very proud of how they play, how life is going for them. You have to value them.
“We were the better team, we dominated and generated better chances. I am very satisfied.”
You can picture Xavi congratulating his young midfielder on his shit-stirring role in Barca’s victory, placing a nurturing arm around his shoulders and whispering sweet nothings into his ear.
Because Marca were right; Gavi has proven once again that he riles Real Madrid like nobody else.
By Michael Lee