When Barcelona won trophies left, right and centre during the period from 2005-2015, the team had several stars who can easily be considered some of the best players to kick a football. There was Lionel Messi; there was the defensive duo of Carlos Puyol and Gerard Pique. However, the heartbeat of the team were Andres Iniesta and Xavi. The midfield duo amazed the opposition with their impeccable passing, and it was not surprising to see the team struggle after their departure. However, in their moments of despair, the famed La Masia academy came to the club’s rescue by providing them with a perfect replacement for Xavi in Pablo Martín Paez Gavira, famously known as Gavi.
The 18-year-old is quite similar to Xavi’s name and playing style. And it is safe to say that he is far more talented than Xavi was at his age. At such a young age, Gavi has broken many records, becoming the fourth-youngest player to play for Barcelona and the third-youngest Barcelona goal scorer.
In addition, he is also the youngest player to make his debut for Spain and also the youngest goals scorer in their entire history. And at a time when Barcelona have had to activate multiple ‘economic levers‘ to buy players, the rise of Gavi provides the club with a world-class talent that would’ve cost them a fortune on the transfer market.
Gavi has been the standout performer for Barcelona this term
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Gavi career stats
Gavi started his career at the age of eight when he joined the youth academy of La Liara. However, after only three years, he left the club, joining La Masia, where he has blossomed into probably the best young player.
Even at a young age, Gavi gave the impression that he was mature beyond his years. And soon, he was promoted to Barcelona B, a team Messi, Iniesta and Xavi played before making the move to the first team.
In the 2020-21 season, he made two appearances for the B side before Ronald Koeman deemed him to be ready for the first time. Gavi made his debut on August 29, 2021, against Getafe. His next appearance would come on September 20, where he would also score his first goal, making him the youngest scorer after Ansu Fati and Bojan Krkic.
He would make 34 appearances in the 2021-22 season in La Liga and was one of the few positives for the Blaugrana, where they finished 13 points behind Real Madrid. However, it has been the current season where Gavi has been the midfield enforcer, helping them establish an eight-point lead in La Liga.
According to Smarterscout, Gavi is among the best players across the game when it comes to disrupting the opposition’s moves, with a rating of 99. He has also been rated 96 for their defensive ability. At the same time, he is also active at the opposite end of the pitch, receiving a lot of balls in the attacking half.
And even though Barcelona were knocked out of the Champions League, Gavi remained an ever-present danger with a rating of 85 for disruption and 87 for ball retention. Gavi is also adept at covering lots of ground in qui8ck time.
A look at his heatmap also shows us one thing is that he loves to take the ball towards the inside channels be it left or right. While doing so, he also attempts a lot of take-ons which helps create chances for his team. His 1.4 take-ons per 90 minutes rank him along the top ten per cent of midfielders. And he is highly successful at take-ons which is validated by his 2.13 carries into the final third, which ranks him in the top 13 percentile of midfielders.
This has all come in his second season when he is 18 years old, and as he plays more and more, the numbers are bound to get a significant boost.
Gavi strengths and weaknesses
One of the major strengths that the teenager has is his off-the-ball movements which he uses to significant effect to harass the opposition off the ball. And it is one of the reasons why he averages such a high tackle rate in the attacking third. Gavi also knows that fouls in the attacking third are punished far less by the referees with a card.
It is one of the reasons why he has made 49 fouls, the third-most in the top five leagues after Salis Abdul Samed and Mounaïm El Idrissy. Gavi is also an expert at deploying the high press and blocking the passing lanes. It is one of the reasons why Barcelona ranks among the top teams on pressing metrics such as the Buildup Disruption Percentage (BDP) and Gegenpressing Intensity Percentage (GPI).
On the other hand, he is also quite good at playing himself out with a pass or take-ons. This means Barcelona rarely lose possession, allowing them to keep their shape and pressure the opposition.
Gavi has the traits of Xavi but is more aggressive and assertive on the ball, which means he is a mix of Ilkay Gundogan and Paul Pogba. This gives Barcelona the freedom to play a style that is a mix of their famous tiki-taka with some aspects of Gegenpressing.
This means that the opposition in La Liga have been unable to create chances against them. The club has only conceded seven goals, the least in the league.
However, despite this, Gavi has a significant weakness: his knack for making unnecessary tackles. He was the most-involved player in terms of fouls at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, with 23 (9 conceded and 14 won).
Gavi is also not brilliant at tracking back when his team faces a counter-attack. However, that weakness can only be sorted as he plays more and more at the top level.
Gavi Barcelona future
Gavi has undoubtedly been the best player of this generation to come out of La Masia academy, which is why Barcelona would not want to sell him, no matter how high the price is. However, every top club had expressed an interest in signing him, especially when Barcelona were struggling financially.
the club moved all over and also managed to register him as a senior player. However, even for that, they had to go to court as La Liga had initially denied the move, citing the club’s financial difficulties.
But just when the club thought the troubles had been over, the court denied the move to register him as a senior team player. This means that Gavi, for now, will be stripped of the number six jersey awarded to him under the senior-team contract. However, the most shocking part is that under the youth contract, there is a clause allowing Gavi to leave on a free in the summer. Naturally, this has alerted all the top clubs across Europe who will all be looking to add him, the talented Spaniard, to their ranks.
Barcelona, for now, are going top court, and the story will likely take several twists before we reach the conclusion of the Gavi saga.