Some of football’s biggest names have found their way to one of the 28 MLS teams when approaching the end of their careers.
David Beckham (LA Galaxy), Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls), Wayne Rooney (DC United) and Kaka (Orlando City) are just some of the famous names who have graced MLS with their presence.
That is not to say that only veterans ply their trade in this league. MLS is home to many young players in their prime.
And this season, the talented young group of MLS has had a new addition. Dubbed as the “new Xavi”, the 23-year-old La Masia graduate, Riqui Puig, signed for Los Angeles Galaxy this summer.
Expectations were high from the talented midfielder, but Puig never managed to meet them, ending his Barcelona career with 42 appearances over four years.
While he is technically gifted and has a high work rate, one of the reasons he never gained his manager’s trust could be his slight and lean build.
Former AC Milan manager Gattuso praised Puig after a friendly match against Barcelona in 2018, “He’s spectacular. Seeing kids who still have baby faces play with the ball is something that amazes me. I see them feel the football inside, and it is something like poetry.”
Now with LA Galaxy, questions were asked if the Spaniard would be able to assert and establish himself in a league more physical and less technical in nature.
And if the first three games are any indication, the once highly touted midfielder will be just fine.
Riqui Puig has started two and come off the bench for one game and has impressed the fans with his work ethic and willingness to chase balls.
The player has already recorded one assist and opened his goal-scoring account this week with a stunner against Toronto FC.
What Puig lacks in physical stature, he makes it up for with mental strength and determination.
Puig backs himself to win the 50-50s and even uses his slim build to his advantage, twisting, turning, and using his low centre of gravity to get out of tight spots.
If others consider his build a weakness, Puig has converted that into his strength and adapted his play to suit it.
Let’s not forget, that his first goal for his previous club came from a header, with sharp movement and impeccable timing.
Riqui Puig has the potential to become the league’s one of the most sought-after players and can even change the perception of MLS to make it more attractive for younger players. Whether that does happen or not, only time will tell.