While watching his side secure a 1-0 win over Barcelona in California on Saturday night, AC Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso was left impressed with one player in particular.
The Rossoneri secured a late win thanks to Andre Silva’s injury-time goal, albeit they didn’t exactly dominate a game in which Ernesto Valverde fielded several youngsters.
Nevertheless, it was important for their preparations as well as Barcelona’s, but Gattuso was left to single out Riqui Puig after the game as he was evidently impressed by the youngster.
“Riqui is spectacular,” Gattuso is quoted as saying by ESPN. “Even though they [Barca] have players that look like kids, the way they handle the ball amazes me. It’s the beauty of football. It’s like poetry.
“I heard about him a while ago, and about some of the other kids at the club. It’s the kind of thing you can’t really copy and paste. It’s something that takes years to do. It’s how they feel the game.”
Earning that level of respect from a rival is a statement in itself, but to come from a coach like Gattuso who won it all as a player, will certainly mean a lot to Puig.
Nevertheless, it will be down to him to impress his own senior coach in Valverde to earn playing time at that level this season, as it remains to be seen whether or not he can make a breakthrough this year at the Nou Camp beyond featuring in the pre-season schedule.
The teenager made 13 appearances for the youth side last season in all competitions, scoring three goals and providing three assists in his preferred central-midfield role.
While he still has his entire career ahead of him, Barcelona will undoubtedly manage him appropriately with the ultimate aim of seeing him flourish at senior level. It appears as though Gattuso is already convinced though…