When Gavi appeared to have suffered a major knee injury during Spain’s most recent Euro qualifier against Georgia, all Barca supporters initially felt astonishment and resentment, but they also felt a sense of resignation.
One of the most key midfield players for the team is out for the season with an ACL tear. He will probably miss the start of the following season and will probably need some time to go back to his previous level of play. It’s also far from certain that he will even revert to his previous persona, as Ansu Fati has demonstrated over the last several years.
Naturally, and understandably so, Luis de la Fuente, the coach of Spain’s national team, took the brunt of the blame. It’s absurd to say that Gavi should start in a pointless match when Spain has already qualified for the summer’s Euros and he just three days earlier played 90 minutes with his normal intensity. Nine of the eleven starters from Thursday’s victory over Cyprus were rested by De La Fuente. Nine. Still, Gavi’s name appears first on the team sheet as usual.
Gavi won’t even be accessible for the Euros now. Whatever “calculated risk” De la Fuente believed he was taking backfired spectacularly, and he will now be subject to well-earned scrutiny. However, Gavi’s club is represented by the people who should be responding to these very same queries.
Gavi is a warrior; he will dive in with his head in a 50-50 to win the ball for his team, runs like he has a third lung, and wins headers against 6-foot defenders. He is the essence of Barca and the driving force behind this football team. That’s just who he is. He has developed into Xavi’s squad’s real leader at the age of just 19. However, he is only 19 years old. Pedri used to take him to training till last year. Even more mishandled by Barca than fielding him in a pointless qualifier, he is still a young player.
At the beginning of the 21–22 season, at the age of 16, he joined the senior squad. He was thrown in at the deep end and left there permanently, proving his mettle right away. No matter how fit he is, he racked up over 3000 minutes over 47 games as a 16-year-old, which is quite unhealthy. He has played 27 official matches for Spain and 111 official matches for the club, and he is not even 20 years old yet, far from reaching the pinnacle of his athletic prowess. Who knew what was going to happen?
Gavi’s zeal, tenacity, and spirit of competition have earned him the moniker “unbreakable” from coaches, commentators, and supporters alike. He’s not, though. He is, after all, a competitor who competes at really high levels every week and requires significantly more protection than he has ever had. The outfield player for Barcelona with the most minutes since his debut three years ago cannot be a youthful box-to-box midfielder. Nevertheless, he is.
It was logical to think that Barca had moved on from their disappointment with Pedri after just one season. He was a remarkable 17-year-old who shown exceptional talent, participating in 52 matches that season—more than any other player, including Leo Messi and goalkeeper Marc-Andreter Stegen.
In addition to starting six games for Spain at the end of the season, including three in extra time, he was also called up to repres
Surprisingly, Pedri sustained injuries shortly afterward, and again, and again. Despite his exceptional talent, prolonged periods of inactivity have overshadowed his recent years. In retrospect, the way the backroom and medical personnel handled their first Golden Boy was absurd and almost careless. After that, he was hurt, so they had to start over with their next young player.
Though it feels that way right now, we have to suppose that Gavi’s reasoning was a little more sound than “he hasn’t been hurt yet, let’s keep trying it.” Indeed, an ACL tear is not the same as multiple bothersome hamstring/quad strains, and it does not mean that he is, or will become, prone to ailments. However, despite playing those enormous minutes in the first season, Pedri also did not sustain any injuries.
Science has a logical explanation for injuries, so they are not a mystical phenomenon. Constantly overtaxing muscles, joints, and ligaments without allowing for adequate recovery time is a recipe for an accident, which is exactly what occurred to Gavi and Pedri. This ACL tear is just another example of how players are pushed until their bodies can no longer handle it.
The tale begins even earlier, when the team’s appalling management of Ansu Fati’s meniscus injury caused him to deteriorate from a superstar with the world at his feet into a shadow of his former self who is sadly never going to return to that level. This mishandling lasted for more than a year. He was not the same after the club hurried his comeback from his first procedure, which resulted in long-term difficulties and four surgeries in just six months.
It goes without saying that football players constantly want to play, especially young players eager to prove themselves like Gavi. However, that does not imply that they ought to. Staff members have an obligation to safeguard their players as managers, directors, and trainers, if not for their own well-being then for the club’s long-term gain on and off the field.
Due to inadequate planning at the highest level, Gavi is now out for the season, but that is in the past and cannot be changed. However, we can learn from this enormous mistake and use a far more methodical strategy with minutes to minimize these avoidable accidents.
Yes, that entails knowing when players should take a break during international breaks and maintaining close contact with the national teams. Like Luis Enrique before him, De la Fuente overuses Blaugrana kids for fun, and the team that pays their wage ought to have a significant influence in what happens to their team.
However, it also implies that clubs have an obligation to oversee fitness every week. Barca must be more cautious than ever about what they can manage as football’s regulatory bodies keep adding games and competitions in an effort to boost revenue without taking player safety into account.
Now that Gavi is out, there will be an urge to get the most out of Pedri, another midfield player who can make a big difference for this squad. Under no circumstances could this occur, as he is also just getting back from an injury and, like Frenkie de Jong, needs his minutes to be monitored closely. It is difficult to see Barca having a successful season if they wind up losing both for a lengthy period of time.
The development of Lamine Yamal, a 16-year-old who, if it’s possible, appears even better than Ansu did when he was shattering every known age record, is another important lesson to be learned from this. We simply have a phenomenon on our hands, but there have been many young people with exceptional skill whose careers have stalled and ultimately failed.
Injury has a major role in that. Another major component of it is overhyping them. To make sure players can reach their full potential, it is critical to control the pressure they experience and the length of time they spend on the field.
Yamal isn’t supposed to start three times a week. Clearly. The long-term benefit is far more significant, especially at such a young age, but managers sometimes overlook basic precautions that help keep players fit and healthy, in part because of the pressure they endure from supporters to produce results every single game.
The circumstances could have been completely different, and Ansu is no longer even playing for Barcelona, even though it appeared that he would be a mainstay in our starting lineup for fifteen years had he been given the opportunity to heal normally following his first operation.
Would Gavi have torn his ACL even if he had played less minutes this season? It’s hard to say, but he wouldn’t have been playing against Georgia in the first place if Barca had managed his minutes more actively. This trend of abusing players excessively till they break is something that needs to end. Nobody benefits from it—not the player, the team, or the country.
When praising those who are extremely fit, terms like “machine” and “robot” are frequently used, but in the end, they do us all a favor since they give a justification to stretch them much too thin, as we have seen in the last several years.
It will be interesting to see how Gavi recovers from this injury, but with his mindset, you can bet that he will come out stronger. Naturally, his manager—one of the all-time great midfielders—had to recover from an ACL injury during his formative years.
In any case, how many more before we finally say enough? We are fortunate to have La Masia and to see the production of talents from different generations practically every year. When will we begin to put their safety first?
Lamine is sixteen years old. Gavi is nineteen. Fermin, Balde, and Pedri are twenty. They are all already completely incorporated in La Roja and Barcelona. These players require the club’s assistance whether they ask for it or not, and the time to make excuses is over.