KEY POINTS

  • Barcelona's Sergio Busquets said they are only focused on their Champions League match against Napoli 
  • The vice-captain thinks Riqui Puig is more than ready for Champions League
  • Puig has been likened to Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta

Barcelona veteran and vice-captain Sergio Busquets said Riqui Puig is more than ready to play a role in the first team in this year’s UEFA Champions League.

After Lionel Messi, Busquets is one of the veterans in Barcelona who have embraced the role of a leader. As vice-captain of both Barca and the Spain national team, the 32-year-old has seen and faced an array of youngsters inside the pitch.

In a recent press conference before Barcelona’s second leg Champions League match against Napoli, Busquets addressed a few important things. The defensive midfielder insisted that the Catalans are “only focused on the Napoli game” and will be coming up with a unique strategy.

“This game is going to be unique. We are excited to be able to go through and play the Final 8,” Busquets said.

While Messi and the rest of the first team veterans are expected to step up in this year’s Champions League, Busquets noted that after being called up in the latter half of the La Liga season, La Masia graduate Puig has proven that he is “more than prepared” to compete against the best players in the world.

“Although he is 20 years old, he is more than prepared. He must support [his teammates], be a team player and gain experience to be much better and to settle within the first team,” Busquets said of Puig.

Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets says he is more worried about team meetings and travel than training Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets says he is more worried about team meetings and travel than training Photo: AFP / GABRIEL BOUYS

Puig has played well for the Catalans since the return of La Liga. He has been a revelation for the Catalans despite being handed his first-team debut during one of the club’s most difficult seasons.

Prior to joining the first team, many were already comparing Puig’s game to that of Barcelona legends Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta.

Along with fellow Barcelona academy graduate Ansu Fati, Puig seems to have easily fit in with Messi and the rest of the squad. The 20-year-old has stood out in the playmaking department, providing two impressive assists in Barcelona’s last match of the season against Alaves.

Some believe that Quique Setién's decision not to allow Puig to participate in the play-offs for the B team's promotion wasn’t really a punishment but a blessing in disguise as he got a chance to show his skills in the first team and now in the prestigious Champions League.

There have been loan offers for Puig in the past, but he chose to stay with Barcelona. Despite the risk of being stuck at the B team, Puig stayed and continued developing his game at Camp Nou.