LA Galaxy have signed an enormously talented 22-year-old directly from FC Barcelona. What's up with that?
As 90min reported on Wednesday, Riqui Puig will join the Galaxy this week on a three-year TAM deal from the Catalan giants, with Rayan Raveloson leaving for Auxerre in France to free up the space for the exciting midfielder.
On the face of it, this is a fantastic deal. Just a couple of years ago, Puig was being talked about as the jewel of Barcelona's La Masia academy, one of the players who could play a huge role in bringing the club's home-grown ethos back to the forefront.
Since then though, his star has dimmed. Significantly. Players like Nico, Gavi and Pedri have all surpassed him, leaving him on the outside looking in as concerns mount over his attitude, development and commitment to training.
Put bluntly, a club like LA Galaxy don't sign a player like Puig unless some other clubs out there – Barcelona chief among them – consider him damaged goods.
This week, with perfect timing for his departure from Barcelona, a podcaster leaked audio of the 22-year-old back in February mocking one of Barcelona's new signings Ferran Torres, saying of the Spain international: "Ferran Torres? Guardiola didn’t even want him. He played 12 matches last year."
He also, perhaps a little embarrassingly in hindsight, talked up offers from other European giants he'd received. "I had offers from Chelsea and (AC) Milan," he said. "I did not leave because I’m fine here at Barcelona. They pay you double the money, but you’re lonely there."
To go from talking up your offers from the then-reigning European champions and the eventual winners of Serie A to moving to a team on the fringes of the MLS playoffs in six months can't feel great.
The hope in southern California, and indeed for those interested in the Spanish national team, is that the blow to his ego may finally inspire him to knuckle down and put in the hard yards, finally making good on his undoubted talent after being perceived as coasting on natural ability for the last couple of years.
He has the talent to develop into a league MVP inside the three years of his contract at Dignity Health Sports Park, but the club and head coach Greg Vanney must now put in the work to make sure that he comes somewhere near fulfilling that potential.
This could be the signing of the summer across the whole league – never mind your Bernardeschis and your Insignes – especially at his comparatively low price point. However, just as possible, he could be a frustrating bust who causes dressing room disharmony. At least he and Gareth Bale will be able to bring a little taste of El Clasico to El Trafico.