Barcelo – no, wait, sorry – Ronald Koeman wants to loan Riqui Puig out this summer.
For clarification, Ronald Koeman does not want Riqui Puig for the coming season.
Yes, we don’t quite get it either. Puig, in a very short space of time, has proven himself to be a darn fine footballer. Adventurous, gets you off your seat and is a real pleasure to watch.
Which apparently are not good enough qualities to play for Barcelona.
Working on the basis that he wouldn’t get adequate playing time in a midfield featuring Miralem Pjanic and Sergi Roberto, Koeman has decided to loan Puig out this season to gain valuable first team minutes. Baffling, bizarre and downright silly, he’ll have no shortage of suitors in the coming weeks.
Here’s who could – joyously – take him off their hands.
Many will dispute this choice immediately due to the fact they’re not playing in the Champions League, but of the sides in need of a creative force in midfield areas, Bayer Leverkusen rank high on the list.
Having lost Kai Havertz to Chelsea, there is a real dearth of flair in forward areas for the German side this season. They’ve brought in Patrik Schick as their new striker, but he will need chances to feed off and adding someone of Puig’s calibre in midfield is ideal. Whether he plays further forward or more disciplined, he still possesses the guile to break through lines much in the same vein as Havertz did.
Would Europa League football be good enough for Barcelona and Puig, though? That’s the question. Yet there could be no question marks over whether he’d play each week.
Of the options in Germany with Champions League football, Borussia Mönchengladbach are the only ones where you could expect Puig to play week in week out. Their style is nothing like the one Barcelona employ, based on quick breaks and structure without the ball that allows the forward to be played in immediately.
But, he would play.
That could be crucial. It would also provide an experience to the 21-year-old, taking him out of his comfort zone and forcing him to adjust to new philosophies and approaches. Would be a big change, but a fun one.
Christian Eriksen’s move to Serie A has been, well, underwhelming to say the least. He is yet to click in Antonio Conte’s setup and the midfield trio have been caught lacking in a few departments. As good as the three can be, there is little in the way of mobility there, which Puig could bring to the table.
With Arturo Vidal on his way to Milan as well, the familiarity of a former teammate could suit his integration. Inter keep stockpiling older players and Conte will need some younger flair to help balance out his ageing starting lineup.
With any combination of the two between Nicolo Barella, Roberto Gagliardini, Eriksen and Vidal alongside him, he could be given more license to float through the lines and provide the service for Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.
Moving across Italy, another side in the second tier of European football but would provide a good option for Puig are Roma. While not similar in style, the loss of Nicolo Zaniolo to another desperately unlucky injury has left them weak in midfield.
Their Serie A opener against Verona ended goalless, with the midfield duo of Jordan Vertout and Amadou Diawara leaning heavily on the defensive side of things. Perhaps allowing Lorenzo Pellegrini to play wider and Pedro likewise on the other flank, there is a way to incorporate Puig into midfield.
Of all the destinations Puig could head, staying in Spain seems the most likely. We’ve seen at both Barcelona and Real Madrid that the rest of La Liga can be used as their training camps for certain players, who can then return much improved or be moved on elsewhere.
Sevilla is an option, but it’s also a risk considering Barcelona are now crap and they will have competition far greater than in previous seasons. Would sending Puig there be considered as helping a direct rival, or would it work in their favour since he can play against everyone except them?
The Champions League aspect will help the case for him to go there.
The loss of Martin Odegaard back to Madrid will have hurt Sociedad, who are embarking on a Europa League campaign this season and will need to add more flair into the centre of the park to compete on multiple fronts.
Puig could go there and will play each week. He’s better than the options they’ve got and will not need too much time bedding in given his familiarity with the division. Socieded play a fun brand of football that uses a very high line, one that allows the forward players in the side to operate in the areas they want and encourages the midfielders to be active on the ball.
A well run club with a commendable footballing philosophy, and perhaps even the tutelage of David Silva, would suit nicely for Puig.