Riqui Puig, the 22-year-old Barcelona soccer prodigy, is joining the Los Angeles Galaxy.
With his current contract ending this summer, the Spanish midfielder will be joining the Galaxy on a free transfer. His former club, La Liga giant FC Barcelona, will be entitled to a percentage of any future transfer, according to ESPN.
Making his senior debut for Barcelona—one of the most storied franchises in European sports history—at the age of 19, Puig was often touted as the next great Spanish midfielder, predicted to fill the golden boots of icons like Andrés Iniesta and Xavi Hernández.
But Hernández, now the manager of his former club, had made it clear to the Barcelona youngster that he was not part of the club’s plans for the immediate future after an inconsistent first few seasons with the senior team.
Puig has been with the club since he was 13-years-old, making his way through Barcelona’s acclaimed La Masia academy, which has produced a respectable list of world superstars including Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, Carles Puyol, Sergio Busquets, Victor Valdés, Gerard Piqué and the greatest-of-all-time Lionel Messi.
Despite rumors of a move to the English side Tottenham Hotspur, Puig signed a three-year contract with the Spanish superclub in 2018, which included a roughly $100 million release clause.
In Los Angeles, Puig will be joining other European soccer alums like former Bayern Munich and Juventus winger Douglas Costa, and the former Manchester United striker and Mexican international legend Javier “Chicharito” Hernández.
With the addition of Puig to bolster their weak midfield, the Galaxy, who are currently ninth in the MLS Western Conference and two points behind the final playoff spot, will be gunning for a chance to square off against cross-town rivals LAFC, who are leading the conference with 48 points.
Given the interest from other European clubs surrounding the rising star, Puig’s move to the MLS appears to some as a step backward for the player.
But in recent years, the MLS has hosted a slew of international superstars such as Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thierry Henry, Didier Drogba, David Villa… the list goes on.
This season Riqui Puig will be playing against some serious competition. L.A.’s own Carlos Vela, the Mexican international who won the MLS Golden Boot in 2019, also spent time in Europe with the English club Arsenal during the beginning of his career. And, down in Florida, Argentine legend Gonzalo Higuaín is fronting David Beckham’s Inter Miami.
As Major League Soccer becomes increasingly competitive, attracting more and more star players from around the world (and not only those looking to retire in California), the young Spaniard’s decision to cross the pond may represent a shift in Europe’s perception of American soccer.
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