Young Gavi, mature Pedri evoke memories of the Xavi-Iniesta combine | Football News – Times of India

DOHA: Gavi came in wearing a finely cut dark suit matched with oversized white trainers. These days, they do not look odd to the middle-aged gaze anymore. It helped that the shirt was crisp white and unbuttoned at the neck. The sartorial awakening apart, what else left a mark was that it was the only time when Gavi represented calm and poise all evening. It was the most astonishing transformation. Because only less than an hour earlier, he was all sweaty, a young boy’s cheeks flushed with effort and intensity, hair tousled racing into the angry scrap huddle to extricate Dani Olmo from a couple of extremely confused and hapless Costa Rican defenders.
A strange older man’s Zen, because he had also been hurling himself on top of the pyramid each time Spain scored in their opening game here on Wednesday. And they scored many. Someone pointed out that Spain had scored eight goals on their way to winning the 2010 title in South Africa, here in Qatar – 12 years and nearly a generation later – they already have seven in their first game itself.

“I don’t have a striker that scores 30 goals a season,” said coach Luiz Enrique afterwards expressing more relief in his happiness that the goals came from all across his positions. Enrique should know, he’s seen the worst of such times as a player for Spain. After perhaps Italy, who are not here, Spain are among the worst starters among world football’s elite. They make heavy weather of opening games in a manner that beggars belief, often derailing their campaign as they play catch-up. People are already predicting a drought from now on.
In one of the Spanish pyramids that formed on Wednesday, Pedro found himself buried under, because he too had scored – a stunning volley struck on the run with the outside of his right foot that screamed control and accuracy. It was emblematic of the complete domination of Spain enjoyed over the Costa Ricans.
Gavi is the tempest to the Pedri calm. It is perhaps the new avatar of the long-gone Iniesta-Xavi combine of an erstwhile majestic Spain that heightened our senses a decade ago and spoilt us for all time. Interpret and accept it at your own aesthetic capacity, but this is the version that likes to set its own terms – Pedri the old-fashioned ball player, pass master; younger Gavi, the more physical high-press storm, but with a flair that harks back to the old school. “Pedri and I are very good friends off the pitch and on the pitch there is not much to say. He’s a spectacular player and it’s very easy to play alongside him,” our hero would say. It reminded us of the time when Gavi was awarded the Young Player of the Year, and the nervous youngster was being urged by the calmer partner to walk the red carpet, as it was his moment but Gavi wanted Pedri to accompany him.
A shirt number 30 for Barcelona, Gavi’s is a most unlikely upgrade to No 9 for Spain, since his a more recovery minded role once they lose possession during the high press, and complementing the more vision-blessed Pedri. The scoring intent is usually secondary, here he is being encouraged to make it the main thing. “The coach is always telling me to come more into the box, and not be afraid to shoot,” he explained later.
“So, when I saw Morata’s ball coming back from the other side, I knew I had to run and shoot.” The strike would make him the youngest player since Pele to score at a World Cup, it would also make the world sit up and take notice at the sudden explosion of power that a usually sleep-inducing Spain can unleash. It was also good enough to earn him the man of the match despite the fact that Ferran Torres had got two goals. “Yes, I know about the Pele thing,’ Gavi would say later, “Someone told me after the match. I am very happy to score my first goal, and also happy we began so well.”
As talk predictably focussed on whether he understood the moments that he was living, his coach offered some caution. “He’s already a man playing at this level,” Enrique would say, “He’s unique, a very different player because he offers us many options. We’re happy to have him in the team.”
“Sometimes we forget he is just a boy. Maybe sometimes he has to remember too. I hope he will go and play every time better and try to be aggressive with the ball and without the ball. He just needs a little of calm and poise at times. It will come too. He’s just a little boy, still. These moments that he is living are special,” the wizened, much-travelled Enrique reminded us.
Asked what he thought of these moments and the realisation that they were special, something which Messi had said a couple of days back that he had missed preserving them as a prodigious teen, Gavi said, “Koke keeps telling me I will realise much later in my career what I am doing and living right now.”
“He’s 18 but has the personality of an experienced player. We think he’s going to be one of the stars of world football,” Enrique would also add. Like the rest of the world, we would all nod along.

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