Gavi, from extravagance to main

Ten minutes from the end of the Spain-Portugal match, Benito Villamarín resounds with a thunderous ovation.

Gavi, from extravagance to main

Ten minutes from the end of the Spain-Portugal match, Benito Villamarín resounds with a thunderous ovation. Gavi, the undisputed hero of the day, retires from the field. He walks slowly, sore from a blow to his calf that is beginning to cause cramps, and returns the applause as a half smile escapes him.

In his sixth game with Spain comes the international confirmation of a youngster still in his teens, in a stadium he knows well and with the stands populated by relatives from Los Palacios and Villafranca, the town where he was born not even 18 years ago. There is only one person as happy as all those people. Next to the bench, Luis Enrique congratulates his footballer with a hug.

Gavi has been, without a doubt, the Asturian's riskiest bet during his time as coach. He was branded as frivolous, betting on eccentricities and even influence peddling, since Gavi is represented by Iván de la Peña, one of the coach's great friends. Today nobody can question the success of the decision made by Luis Enrique. "He is not a player who only runs, fights and is top defensively," analyzes the coach. «On an offensive level and with the ball he is a very special player, a pure insider capable of receiving between the lines, of shaping up to attack the defenders, of giving a last pass... He has a goal, you will see in the future, he hit with both legs, a header and overwhelming physical power. With his age, he is a unique player ».

Such a string of compliments does not prevent the Asturian from getting serious and trying to stop the euphoria: “It is not indisputable. Undisputed in the Spanish team there are few.

It still causes surprise when, when announcing each call, Luis Enrique names Pablo Martín Páez Gavira among the midfielders. It is not until after a very brief pause when the technician completes the name with the nickname and clears the doubts of the most profane. It wasn't like that the first time. So the surprise was general. Luis Enrique recruited a kid who had barely played 200 minutes in the First Division spread over five games, only two of them as a starter. He also did it in an important call, the one that had to play the Final Four of the last edition of the Nations League. “It could be a bit soon, yes, but seeing how he has competed for four short moments, because that has been it, I have no doubt that it can be very important,” Luis Enrique justified then. The Asturian coach did not stop there and placed Gavi as the starter in the semi-final against Italy, in the rematch of the Euro Cup semi-final. The boy embroidered it. “We are talking about an unusual case. He is playing like at school, like in the patio of his house », reiterated the coach.

In that debut Gavi had to mark one of the great idols of his childhood, Marco Verratti. He did not wrinkle, and even came to face him after a set, with the same courage with which on Thursday, for example, he went to the clash against Pepe, a central defender who is 22 years older and a few heads.

"With Gavi I have a feeling, perhaps because I have known him for many years, that he is still unknown in Spanish football, even for many people who are close to him," the coach concludes his analysis, a statement that many take as a touch of attention to Barcelona, ​​entangled with the renewal of the midfielder. “I do not criticize anyone. I say what I see and what I feel, and I can say it very loud and proud. Gavi is unknown in Spanish football because you don't see that facet with the ball, only the boy who fights and fights.

Gavi has entered the national team ecosystem on the right foot. Beyond the absolute devotion that Luis Enrique has for him, the boy's character has also permeated the group. Although he is not the most talkative of the internationals, on the field he transforms. He plays as he trains and does not hesitate to put his foot in also against the most veteran players. Outside the pitch, where he also walks with his shoelaces untied, he feels comfortable surrounded by the rest of the Barça players. Like so many others, Busquets sheltered him under his mantle when he arrived, he has known Ansu since they were two kids and he has also made good friends with Ferran.