Riqui Puig continues to prove that physique is secondary, as long as football is played with the head. That said, it has possibly been his apparently weak physique what has made of Riqui the player he is today. With 1.69 metres and less than 60 kilos, if he has reached Barcelona’s first team it means that he has greatly managed to transform his disadvantages into a huge advantage.
Against a team that is often considered physical and aggressive like Atlético, it was Riqui who stood out in front of Thomas Partey while Arturo Vidal struggled on the right. The 20-year-old shone through his intelligence, his activity, his continuous scanning of surroundings, his quality to operate in tight spaces, his close control, his body orientation and feints, and his lightness and agility that his tiny body has provided him.
Before executing, he is already thinking about what to do next. Always one second ahead of his rivals, which allows him to, for example, leave Thomas behind with his first touch. Still, yesterday Riqui wasn’t a left interior that could drop deep frequently, as is the case at Barça B. Instead, he had to operate in much more restricted zones between the lines, almost as a mediapunta. Occupying the small gaps between the opposing pivots and backline, he was continuously pressurised but managed to be precise and fast with and without the ball.
Riqui offers a combination of the traits from the other Barça midfielders, but adds to it the positional concepts no one else has as internalised as him. For me it is undeniable that, with or without De Jong, Puig must be a starter. If Setién has to leave, let it be with Riqui in the XI. That would be a legacy great enough.