The Riqui Puig – Ronald Koeman saga at Barcelona takes yet another interesting turn, but this time for the better. As the semi-finals against Real Sociedad headed for Barcelona’s first penalty shoot-out in this century, fans were understandably nervous, especially given their history with penalties.
With Antoine Griezmann, Miralem Pjanic, Ousmane Dembele, and Frenkie de Jong on the pitch, four penalty takers out of five were almost pre-decided. The quest for the fifth, however, was fulfilled by Riqui Puig, who himself volunteered to take the fifth penalty.
With the pressure of the world, and more importantly Twitter on his shoulders, Puig stepped up to the task as he slotted the ball effortlessly past Alex Remiro in the bottom right corner of the goal.
“Koeman named four players who were going to take the penalty, and I asked for the fifth one,” Puig said in the post-game press conference (via Barça TV+).
The Dutch coach himself was also asked about the situation, to which he replied: “The last penalty? I had four names written down, and I asked who wanted to shoot the last one to win… Riqui wanted to take it, with determination.”
The La Masia graduate has developed a flaky relationship with Koeman this season, which has led to him playing no more than seven games, including zero starts. However, his attitude remains unaltered.
“I have never lost my smile. I am a happy kid. Even if I am not playing, I have my family, my health. If Koeman gives me minutes, I will try and take my chance. If not, keep working hard. I am never going to throw in the towel.”
After the game, the 21-year-old also got on his phone and took a video for Culés, saying: “Hello Culés! I hope you’re okay. Very happy to win and play in my first final! Visca Barça!”
At this point, given the nature of the season and the hectic calendar, the reasons not to play Puig remain few and far between. He understands the pressure he carries but is ready to deliver in any shape or form no matter what.
Koeman talks de Jong, Puig, and the comeback following win vs Rayo Vallecano
Barcelona’s mentality has been questioned an awful lot since the loss against AS Roma, where the team fell to defeat against a team that was more mentally prepared. Throughout the course of the season, their inability to come from behind and win games has come to the pedestal, but not yesterday. After Rayo Vallecano took the lead in the 63rd minute to give Barça scares, the Blaugranas did not stop, coming from behind to win 2-1, cruising through to the Copa del Rey Quarter-Finals.
Naturally, Ronald Koeman was very impressed with his team, and praised the men highly in his post-game press conference.
On the outcome: “I think we played well. We played our game despite the fact that the opponent did played well and put pressure on us. After they scored we came back with quality, and we were able to score more goals. We have qualified and that is the most important thing.”
On finally going back to the Camp Nou at the weekend: “It has been a very tough month with many away games. We have to try to continue like this, going game by game.”
On de Jong’s bizarre scoring form: “De Jong is playing in a more offensive position, and we need him. He is able to flood the box and score.”
On comparing this FdJ to Ajax’s: “The version we are seeing of De Jong’s is more complete than the one we saw at Ajax.”
On the comeback: “I’m very happy with the mentality that the team has shown. We will fight for everything, it’s a great mentality.”
On Puig and the substitution: “Puig did well, especially when playing through the lines. We made substitutions to freshen things up.”