Gavi’s rapid rise at Barcelona was almost a happy accident.
While those in charge at Camp Nou wanted to see academy products like the young midfielder given more minutes, plans to bump Gavi up the pecking order were few and far between. Indeed, Ronald Koeman wanted to hand Georginio Wijnaldum the midfield minutes, while young Ilaix Moriba was the La Masia graduate of choice last season.
Wijnaldum went to Paris Saint-Germain and Ilaix turned down a contract extension and was sold to RB Leipzig, so when the season began, Koeman found himself scrambling for options in the centre of the park.
On the bench for the opening game of the season against Real Sociedad were Gavi, Riqui Puig and the only youngster to play any minutes, Nico Gonzalez.
Gavi’s chance came two games later against Getafe, and just over a month later, the 17-year-old has made history as the youngest starter in the history of the Spanish national team when he took to the pitch in Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Italy.
That wasn’t a token gesture from Spain boss Luis Enrique, but rather a deserved reward for a rapid emergence as one of the few silver linings on the stormy clouds that have enveloped Camp Nou this season.
In a season which has already been so rough for Barcelona, who are in financial ruin and no longer getting the on-field results needed to gloss over that, they have stumbled upon a future superstar who looks set to take the world by storm.
A diminutive midfielder, Gavi is at his best when advancing possession. It’s not rare to see him drop deep to collect the ball, before unleashing a pass or charging forward with some excellent dribbling and above-average speed. He keeps the team ticking.
What makes Gavi so important to this team already is his intelligence. He may be only 17, but he knows how to read the game so well and is happy to pop up in any position on the pitch in order to keep his side balanced. It’s a composure and willingness to do the dirty work that a lot of those at Camp Nou don’t share.
Add to that his undying intensity – he has already accumulated three yellow cards at club level and gave away seven fouls on his Spain debut – and you’ll see why Barcelona are so high on Gavi. He’s giving his absolute all for the club in their time of need and, importantly, he’s playing incredibly well.
Alongside Koeman, Enrique is thrilled with Gavi too.
“See how good the kids are in Spain. It is not normal to see a player with this character, this confidence on his debut. He will be the future of the Spain squad and I think the present too,” he told RAI after the game.
“[Marco] Verratti is his idol. I told him, ‘today you press Verratti from the first moment to the last’. He loved it.
“He played like he was at school or in the garden of his house and it’s great to have a player of this quality and personality.”
It’s obviously very early in Gavi’s career, but there are good reasons that supporters are comparing him and Pedri to a young Xavi and Andres Iniesta. The duo both have real potential and are both emerging as key players despite still being so young.
Gavi has done more than his fair share to raise spirits at Camp Nou, and what makes this so fascinating is that he would never have had the chance to save the day if there wasn’t a day to save in the first place.