The story of Gavi, the 17-year-old jewel of Barcelona who went from Second B to the Spanish team in eight months

The story of Gavi, the 17-year-old jewel of Barcelona who went from Second B to the Spanish team in eight months

Gavi, during the warm-up before the match against Italy in the Nations League semi-final, where he showed all his talent (REUTERS / Alessandro Garofalo)

In February of this year, a 16-year-old young man, considered one of the jewels of the quarry of the Barcelona Soccer Club, He made his debut in Second B (Third Division) against Espanyol B and eight months later he had already seven games with the Barça first team and became the youngest in history to debut in the Spanish senior team and no less than in the semi-final of the UEFA Nations League and against Italy at the San Siro stadium in Milan.

Is about Gavi, who together with Alejandro Balde (left back) and Nico González (central midfielder) are considered a fundamental part of the renewal of Barcelona, ​​which is experiencing a time of crisis after the departure of its highest historical figure, Lionel Messi, to Paris Saint Germain (PSG), but also others such as those of Luis Suárez or Antoine Griezmann, added at the end of the cycles of Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta, and who now bet on young people from their lower divisions such as Ansu Fati, Pedri, Oscar Mingueza or Riki Puig.

Gavi is considered by many to be Xavi’s great successor, although his idol as a child is Iniesta, to the point that the English newspaper The Guardian placed it among the sixty U-17 players with the most future in the world, and for the website Transfermarkt, its market value is already 25 million euros, so in the Barcelona squad, it is only surpassed by Frenkie De Jong (90), Pedri (80), Ansu Fati (60), Marc Ter Stegen (55) , Ousmane Dembélé (50), Memphis Depay (45) and Sergiño Dest (30).

Pablo Martin Páez Gaviria, with a contract with Barcelona until 2024, he was born in the town of Los Palacios y Villafranca, Seville, on August 5, 2004 and began playing football for the local Liara Balompié and from there he joined the lower divisions of Real Betis – cradle of great players such as Dani Ceballos, Fabián Ruiz, Junior Firpo, Loren Morón-, where his irruption was total when he scored 96 goals in the Alevines tournament, and since then he has been followed with interest by Barcelona, ​​Real Madrid, Atlético de Madrid and Villarreal, although he ended up in the Catalan ranks in Catalonia.

In 2015, at the age of eleven, he moved with his family to Barcelona. At first they lived in an apartment on the Ramblas, but later he settled in La Masía, along with other promising young people from the club, while he was part of Marc Serra’s “Alevines A” category, where he encountered an unexpected obstacle: it was fair when the Catalan club was unable to hire players under 18, sanctioned by FIFA.

Once the sanction was lifted, an untimely injury lengthened the time without playing. It was in the III Solidarity Tournament Vicente Ferrer-Saint Cugat Esport and against Espanyol, when when hitting the leg of the rival goalkeeper he fractured his nose although that play ended in his goal, and he had to go through the operating room and wait another month until recuperate.

However, on his return he played at a high level and was crowned champion of the category, winning all 28 matches of the Group 1 Preferred competition. That same year he had to play another final, that of the Fallas Tournament, in Burriana, against Betis, the club from which he came, and ended up scoring a goal for the 2-1 final, with which he won not only another title, but who was considered the player with the greatest projection of the championship.

Goal celebration with Depay: Koeman added him to the preseason and, seeing his conditions, gave him continuity (REUTERS / Albert Gea)

From there it entered international consideration and soon after Manchester City appeared with a very tempting offer, but Gavi preferred to continue at Barcelona, convinced by former Dutch striker Patrick Kluivert, in charge of the club’s youth department. Part of that agreement was the offer of a first professional contract, in addition to being promoted to the “Infant A” category, with Álex Urrestarazu as coach, and then to “Cadets B”, led by Sergi Mila and Pere Romeu. At that time, Gavi defined himself as “Technical, with arrival and competitive”. Without being a scorer, he began to appear followed in the team’s annotations along with his attack companions such as Toni Caravaca or Biel Vicens.

In September 2020 he was already playing in “Juvenil A”, whose coach, Franc Artiga, considered him “gifted”. It was when he signed his first professional contract.

Right, and with 1.73 meters tall, one of his characteristics is the ability to handle both legs, to give clear passes to his teammates and that allows him to play in any position in the middle of the court, and even as a midfielder, behind the forwards.

Artiga – who has just left Barcelona to face a new project in the United Arab Emirates – which he considers “intense and good recuperator”, defined Gavi before Goal like a footballer “Able to change a technical action in tenths of a second and improvise in any game circumstance” and said that “it is very difficult to find a player with this speed of execution. It has quality to protect the ball. His lower body helps him and he is one of the most competitive players I know and it is something that he has to stabilize. The games have a pause and he has to have a mentality focused more on the positional game, but he has improved a lot in the control of his emotions. He always goes full throttle, until the last minute. Play and run on instinct and the experience will make you act on play reading and not so much on instinct. You have to be patient. If things are done well and it has a good environment, we will have Gavi for many years ”.

He had scored a double for Real Madrid in the 2020 “Promises” League, and at the beginning of 2021 he made his debut with the Spanish team in the U-18 tournament “XIV Lafarge Foot Avenir”, along with another Barça promise, Ilias Akhomach, when both They received the surprising news that they had been summoned by Ronald Koeman to join the preseason of Barcelona’s first team in Germany, along with other teammates such as Nico González and Alex Balde, although in the end, Ilias had to get off the bus for having contracted COVID- 19.

Gavi is considered the leader of a great generation of Barcelona footballers, that of 2004, which includes Diego Almeida, Marc Jurado, Aleix Garrido, Jordi Coca, Toni Caravaca, Ángel Alarcón and Xavi Planas.

In the 2020/21 season he had already played two games with Barcelona B in Second B (Spanish Third) when Francesc Xavier García Pimienta called him up from Juvenil A. And that was how he made his debut in the second team for Barça at the age of 16 in February 2021 against Espanyol B and five months later he was already in the preseason with the majors, and with a great start in a friendly against Stuttgart, after which the comparisons with Xavi Hernández began.

It was not strange then that he officially made his first debut on August 29 against Getafe at the Camp Nou, when Barcelona won 2-1 in the League, when he entered the 73rd minute replacing Sergi Roberto. Just a few days later, on September 14, he made his Champions League debut by playing the final half hour in a painful 0-3 loss to Bayern Munich. At that time, he seemed to want to rebel against the hard defeat of his team and received the yellow card for going too hard on León Goretzka, and he was almost sent off for going with everything again on Dayot Upamecano. Koeman put him as a starter against Cádiz and he no longer came out of the starting eleven.

But that was not all. In his dizzying career during this 2021, received the news from his Barcelona teammates that he had been called up by Luis Enrique Martínez to join the Spanish team in the Final Four of the UEFA Nations League in Italy.

In this way, with just seven games in Barcelona’s first team (five in the Spanish League and two in the Champions League), Gavi reached the Spanish senior team at 17 to make his debut in no less than the semi-finals of the Nations League. against the local, Italy, when on October 6 it was his turn to score no less than Marco Verratti, and after achieving a resounding triumph (which ended with a long undefeated by his rival, also champion of the European Championship), he also played the final against France, falling 2-1.

When Luis Enrique was consulted about whether perhaps the call-up for the Spanish national team could be too early for his career, he admitted: “It’s possible, I’m not going to fool him, but I think it was worth it” (REUTERS / Alessandro Garofalo)

At just 17 years and 62 days, Gavi became the youngest player to make his debut in the Spanish senior team, surpassing Pedro Regueiro (17 years and 161 days in 1927) and Ángel Zubieta –then, a player from San Lorenzo- (17 years and 284 days in 1936). In addition, he arrived with just 275 minutes in first, although at this point he is surpassed by the current Sevilla striker, Munir El Haddadi, who came to the Spanish national team in 2014 with only 126 minutes in first, although at that time the reason was avoid being summoned before from the Moroccan representative.

Gavi already had a history of having played in other Spanish youth teams since he had been summoned by Julen Guerrero to play in the Sub 15, and then he also participated in the Sub 16 and Sub 18 and now he returns to the ranks of the more consolidated Barcelona and with the injury of another young man who is already a starter, Pedri, he seems to have a great chance of occupying some place in the midfield alongside Busquets and De Jong.

During the recent UEFA Nations League, the technical director of the Spanish team, Luis Enrique, went so far as to point out that Gavi’s early call-up “It is because it is the closest thing to Pedri in technical conditions” and when they asked him if maybe the call could be too early for his career, he admitted that “it is possible, I am not going to deceive him, but I think it was worth it.”

Ben Oakley
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