Football News

Luis Enrique: Marco Verratti is Gavi’s idol

By Ben Green

Published: 12:04, 7 October 2021 | Updated: 20:45, 24 November 2022

Barcelona midfielder Gavi became Spain’s youngest-ever international after making his debut against Italy on Wednesday night, and he got to play against his “idol” Marco Verratti, according to Luis Enrique.

The 17-year-old was named in the starting XI to face the Euro 2020 winners — just his fourth professional start in his nascent career — in the Nations League semi-final, and by doing so he made La Roja history as the nation ran out 2-1 victors.

By edging 10-man Italy, Enrique’s side subsequently ended Italy’s 37-game unbeaten run and became the first nation this century to beat Gli Azzurri in a competitive home game. Their last such defeat came in September 1999, before six of Spain’s current squad were even born.

Gavi, for his part, formed an impressive midfield relationship with Koke and Barcelona team-mate Sergio Busquets, as a Ferran Torres brace ensured Spain reached the final, with Leonardo Bonucci seeing red, and Lorenzo Pellegrini offering a late consolation goal.

The teenage sensation finished the contest having had more touches (68) than Jorginho (34) and Verratti (31) combined, a stat that is likely to leave Gavi starstruck as he was actually playing against his “idol” in the shape of the PSG midfielder.

“See how good the kids are in Spain,” Enrique told RAI Sport.

“It is not normal to see a player with this character, this confidence on his debut. He will be the future of the Spain squad and I think the present too.

“Verratti is his idol! I told him, today you press Verratti from the first moment to the last. He loved it.”

On Gavi’s call-up before the game, the former Barcelona manager said: “I have known Gavi for many years, he is one of the models of the Barca youth academy.

“I have no doubt about the performance he will give.

“He’s a pure midfielder, very much in the Barca style. He brings interesting things with the ball and without the ball.”

Despite ending Italy’s world-record 37-game unbeaten streak, Enrique was quick to downplay to magnitude of the achievement, believing the greater “satisfaction” for him as a manager comes from reaching the final.

He added: “The satisfaction is that we are in the final, not that we ended this run, because Italy deserved that world record and they continue to play football at a very high level.”