“Who’s that blond kid?”
“That’s Nico Gonzalez, Juvenil level, the son of Fran.”
“The son of Fran, from Depor?”
La Voz de Galicia told of Ronald Koeman’s first reaction to seeing Nico Gonzalez play. It happened by chance when he watched a Barca B vs Juvenil A game. That day, Nico impressed the Dutchman and he’s followed him since.
This summer he called him up to take part in pre-season. With Ilaix blocked out, Busquets on holiday and Pedri at the Olympics, there were opportunities. A Barca being reconstructed needs to think about replacements, eventually, for Busquets and Alba.
That Koeman liked Nico was laid bare when he gave him a lot of minutes. “He’s a very young player who has stepped up to the first team. It’s about increasing the rhythm of his game. If there’s moments we have problems in the middle, we know we’ve got a pivot in him.”
The Dutchman brought on Nico against Real Sociedad in the 84th minute. Koeman wants him to get up to first team speed. He knows he needs to do so.
After his debut, not even his father was capable of getting his shit. “The shirt I’ll never give to anyone, it’s for me. My father asked me for it, but I think I’ll keep it and I’ll frame it because it’s something unique and only happens once in life.”
Koeman counts on him as Busquets’s back up, a position he became used to last season with Orella and Oriol Busquets injured, meaning Pimienta had to look for alternatives.
That was when he found his best form too. He’s got great calm to overcome opponents’ pressing, is delicate on the ball and very agile.
Carles Martinez, the U20 coach and former La Masia coach, said he’s a player that wants to know it all about the game, like Eric Garcia.
“Eric doesn’t just want the bst, but he wants to know the ‘why’s’, always. Nico Gonzalez is from this style too. They are extra coaches.”
Franc Artiga said: “Nico’s made to play No 4 at Barca, Busquets’ role. He’s very intelligent and physically he’s a beast.”
He had some growth difficulties. He was short and not muscular but suddenly exploded, to over 1m 80cm, and with coordination problems. Once he adapted, he impressed the coaches.
Koeman wanted Georginio Wijnaldum but instead Nico and Gavi will be his midfield backup. Pique is sure. “A bloody great generation is coming through,” he said.