Gavi: Barcelona’s latest jewel impresses in pre-season

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Barcelona’s academy never died. After Riqui Puig, Monchu, Jandro Orellana and Carles Aleñá, La Masia has seen the rise of another talent at the heart of the pitch: Pablo Paez Gavira, or shortly referred to as ‘Gavi’. At 172 centimeters, ‘Gavi’ is not among the tallest players. Yet it is the combination of a low centre of gravity and the footballing IQ that provoke ‘wow’ reactions among football fans. Hailed as a big talent since he joined Barcelona’s academy in 2015 from Real Betis, his performances with the first team in this pre-season has earned him more and more traction as more fans discovered the young gem.

He describes himself as ”a technical player, agile and who arrives into the penalty area”. Fans could observe how glued the ball seemed to be onto his feet. Note that these characteristics are rare in Barcelona’s academy. He’s only 16 years old, but it felt as if he had always played with the first team. Links seemed to be constructed very easily on the pitch, building bridges in real-time during the match as he released the final ball. Girona and Gimnastic, Barcelona’s first two opponents in the pre-season, found it hard to lure Gavi. His press resistance is no surprise. However, it is his ‘strength’, or better said the ability to hold the ball despite multiple challenges from the opposition without losing his balance. Perhaps one could argue that Carles Aleñá and Riqui Puig hold similar characteristics: But the resistance to opponent challenges seems better, more solid. His own manager at Barcelona, Franc Artiga, had commented on his improvement: 

”Physically, this year he has evolved a lot.”He has made the change and is now a very strong player. This physique complements his technical quality and decision-making. He now has the quality to protect the ball. His lower body helps him and has made him more competitive in the youth teams.”

Though Franc Artiga has left Barcelona as his contract was not renewed, the comments are still relevant. Under Sergi Milá, his development has not slowed down, as expected. Perhaps Gavi’s versatility is the most impressive, able to carry, deliver the final ball or score himself through late arrivals in the opponent penalty box. All of these can be noticed in the same match. Without a doubt, it is hard to not be excited about the sixteen-year-old. His notion of anticipation only aids his actions as deception is also one of the main traits of his game. One step ahead of his opponent, a simple body turn allows him to surpass his opponents. Perhaps he has learned from Busquets or Pedri, who also use their body orientation as a simple but effective tool to outshine their opposition. Only years of practice under brilliant managers could forge the brain he now can boast of.

The difference to most players is that is happy to contribute defensively without diminishing his offensive output. A main trait of the ‘hypercompetitive’ Gavi, as Franc Artiga said it: he can perhaps be too competitive at times, rushing too much for the win. Though he can control the game and adapt to the required rhythm for the team, he can tend to be a bit impatient when it comes to winning. Unlike most, he rarely loses the ball, and should this happen, fans can be assured it will not happen in dangerous areas. 

“He plays and executes on instinct. More experience will help him be able to read the game, and not act so much on instinct”

Though the former description might make Gavi seem like the ultimate talent every club should bet on, fans should not expect a starter right away from Pablo Paez Gavira. He still needs more experience to rely less on his instinct and more on his understanding, despite already being excellent. It can only go upward from here for the sixteen-year-old: ‘Gavi’ has a bright future and he simply has to continue what he’s doing until he fully develops: Though he could step in to help the first team, he still has time to develop more and more, commit fewer errors and improve.

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