Saturday’s La Liga fixture between FC Barcelona and Real Betis will be a special one for Pablo Gavi. The trip will be a memorable one for the Barca starter as he was part of the Real Betis academy only eight years ago.
Gavi has already racked up 100 appearances for Barca’s first team and became the youngest player to do so for the Los Blaugrana, achieving the milestone at just 19 years and 29 days.
He may be young and he may be small, but Gavi is the most recent winner of the Golden Boy and Kopa Trophy awards and he makes up for his lack of experience and lack of size through his innate feel for the beautiful game. That understanding of the sport is partly natural and partly taught.
Those natural skills saw Gavi, born in the province of Seville, join the Real Betis academy and then, at the age of 11, move to Catalonia to enter FC Barcelona’s prestigious La Masia school. There, he often played with footballers older than him and he always held his own, learning how to use his talents most effectively.
That prepared him for his early ascent to senior football — first competing against full-grown adults when he made his debut for Barcelona B on February 21, 2021, at 16 years and 200 days of age.
Later that year, Ronald Koeman trusted Gavi enough to give the youngster his debut with the first team, on August 29, 2021, against Getafe CF in La Liga, when the midfielder was still only 17 years and 25 days old.
Gavi made an immediate impact, making people believe that he belonged in La Liga. He looked like he’d been playing for the FC Barcelona first team for years.
Able to play either side of a midfield three, or even as a left winger, Gavi has become a very useful player for Barcelona. Whether he starts or comes off the bench, he always gives his all and, despite his small frame, he can shrug off defenders as he dribbles his way through the lines, always seeking a killer pass.
This has made him a regular starter for the Catalan club and also for the Spanish national team.
On October 6, 2021, just 62 days after his 17th birthday, Gavi made history by starting in the Spanish national team’s UEFA Nations League semifinal against Italy. The midfielder became, at that time, the youngest-ever player to feature for his country’s senior side, a record which his teammate Lamine Yamal just broke.
Gavi has already played 23 games for La Roja and scored four goals, one of them against Costa Rica in the 2022 World Cup. By netting a goal aged 18 years and 110 days, he became the youngest goalscorer in the history of the World Cup since Pelé 64 years earlier.
Despite this almost unprecedented rapid rise, Gavi remains humble and always recalls his origins and his time coming through at Real Betis’ academy.
As he explained in a recent interview with Spanish newspaper MARCA: “I try to be myself, nothing more than that. Everything has gone very fast and things have happened to me that I couldn’t have imagined. But, I have a lot of people close to me who help me. I know where I am, who I am and where I come from.”
When he takes to the pitch on Saturday night to face Real Betis, many memories will surely come flooding in for the young superstar.
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – IANS)