Gavi & a delicate touch that showed he could well be Barcelona’s new Xavi


It’s that time of year. Competitive European football’s been away for three weeks an eternity and we’re itching for it’s return. As warm-up friendlies go on all around, the excitement for the upcoming season builds.

Sometimes, that excitement can be all a little too much. We see one of our club’s youngsters absolutely destroy Bognor Regis Town side featuring three players named ‘Trialist’ and we’re sure he’s the next Maradona.

We’ve all been there, and we’ve all been let down when that youngster gets released and signs for Swindon on a one-year contract the following summer.

What point are we making, you may ask? Well, not too much can always be read into performances in pre-season. Teams are half-fit, testing new formations, gelling after new arrivals.

So, does that mean we should never get excited about pre-season displays? Well, no. Not exactly.

When we look at pre-season games, though, it is perhaps best to avoid being seduced by explosiveness; rather than looking to a spectacular goal that shows a player drank less WKD and ate fewer burgers than the others while on holiday, we might be better served searching for subtle moments that offer a glimpse of genuine quality.

On Saturday, as Barcelona played Stuttgart at the Mercedes-Benz Arena, fans caught a glimpse of one of those subtle little moments – it’s provider was a 16-year-old midfielder and La Masia graduate by the name of Gavi.

Half an hour in, Gavi got the ball on the left, played it inside to Nico Gonzalez and, like any good midfielder should, moved to receive the ball again rather than staying still and admiring his pass.

That wasn’t the captivating bit though. That came next, as Gavi ambled forwards and Gonzalez fired it back into him.

The way Gonzalez shaped to make the pass allowed Stuttgart’s defenders to read it and Gavi was being closed down from three angles, the front, the back and the right, where the ball was coming from.

Most footballers would have panicked, or a few would perhaps have tried to go over the incoming challenge to win a cheap free-kick. Instead, in the heat of the moment and the tightest of spaces, Gavi applied a touch that was as delicate a snowflake landing on a leaf.

With the outside of his right boot, he caressed the ball into the path of Antoine Griezmann before running on, getting another return and cleverly winning a corner.

It was not spectacular, not a moment to win a game from absolutely nothing. Instead, it was subtle and clever, exactly the sort of thing that you want to see from a young player in pre-season.

Predictably it sent Barca fans into overdrive on social media. In fact, it wasn’t only that little bit of skill that excited them – Gavi was wonderful and cute and composed for almost all of the hour that he was on the pitch.

In just the sixth minute, he’d produced a bit chest control and skill that beggared belief, but making it look like it came as easily to him as brushing his teeth.

He had put in similar performances in Barca’s previous two pre-season friendlies too. Not spectacular, no extra speed or power, just dripping in confidence and quality.

After a game with Gimnastic Tarragona in July, Mundo Deportivo said Gavi had “revolutionised the Blaugrana’s game.” Indeed, Mundo Deportivo have already been talking about him for a while. In November 2020, they asked: “The future Xavi or Iniesta of Barca?”

Well, the comparisons are there to be made; a La Masia-made midfielder with the touch of an angel. And Xavi has been the internet’s go-to comparison for Gavi so far – let’s face it, with that name, how could it not be?

Too soon? Almost certainly. But Barcelona’s financial situation means fans are desperate for something to cling onto, begging for a ray of hope to illuminate the dark times.

In Gavi, they have found that ray. And at least in the way he delicately, intelligently manipulates a football, he appears to justify a little of the hype.

By Joshua Law

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