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'Puig ready for Barcelona berth' - Xavi backing teenager to shine

22:32 EAT 07/08/2018
Riqui Puig - cropped
Ernesto Valverde should keep the 18-year-old in his midfield mix, according to a former Camp Nou icon and World Cup winner

Barcelona great Xavi believes Riqui Puig is ready for senior football following the teenager's sparkling pre-season displays.

Puig, 18, featured off the bench in three International Champions Cup matches and was branded "extraordinary" by AC Milan head coach Gennaro Gattuso.

Ernesto Valverde has attempted to keep a lid on expectations and the Barca boss is not short on midfield options with new signings Arthur and Arturo Vidal expected to compete for starting spots.

Xavi, though, is calling for the diminutive Puig to remain in the first-team picture.

"I hope Ernesto can give him opportunities when he deserves them," the four-time Champions League winner told Mundo Deportivo. "I'd say he's very prepared to play in the first team of Barca.

"I am very happy because when I see him playing we can see the total Barca schooling that we like so much.

"[He has] that particular DNA of our game and that is so complex to find in specific players. He sees the play right away, he knows what he has to do at all times and he is intelligent.

"The truth is that he is a boy who breathes talent and who plays easy. He has self-confidence, personality, does not hide and asks for the ball.

"I'm very happy although, as Valverde says, it's still very early."

Puig, who appeared three times for Barcelona B last term, has retained his place in Valverde's training group ahead of Sunday's Supercopa de Espana clash with Sevilla.