Exclusive Riqui Puig interview: It hurt when Xavi didn't let me train with Barça

Exclusive Riqui Puig interview: It hurt when Xavi didn't let me train with Barça

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The LA Galaxy midfielder spoke to SPORT from his new home in Los Angeles

Riqui Puig spoke to SPORT in Los Angeles to assess his first year at MLS side LA Galaxy and his departure from Barcelona.

The midfielder was hurt by the way Xavi Hernandez opened the door for him to leave, a criticism that is not new, but he assured that he is having an excellent experience in the United States league.

What is your life like in Los Angeles?

I've been here for a year and it's an amazing city, the football is totally different, I'm very comfortable in the city, they're looking after me a lot and I came here looking for minutes and I'm getting them. The truth is that I am very happy.

What do you do in Los Angeles that you didn't do in Barcelona?

I can play golf in peace and quiet, it's good for me to disconnect. I can go to dinner in peace, people don't bother me. Here there are a lot of stars and a footballer is not a big deal. Going to watch the Lakers, which is a brutal experience. Every kid has to come here for six months. The experience is brutal, you learn the language well. Now my family is here, my sister, my girlfriend.

Were you singled out too much in Barcelona?

I am young and I want to go out, to go out for dinner, there were extra-sporting issues, they followed me at home, they wanted to know where I went for dinner, where I went for a drink. It was my private life and it bothered me. Here football is the fourth sport and people are not so aware of it. There when you don't play they look for other things, now it's been said about Pablo Torre and it's very unfair.

On a personal level, things seem to be going well for you.

Yes, it's true that as a team we're struggling a bit because we've had some big absentees like Chicharito and Martín Cáceres, but on a personal level things are going well. I was lucky enough to score the winning goal in the Rose Bowl game, which had a lot of impact, and I also scored at home against Philadelphia. On a group level, the team will be reinforced with the objective of getting into the Play-Offs.

Why did you make the decision at such a young age to make a change like this?

The coach called me and I really liked the way the team plays. In Barcelona, I wasn't very comfortable either on the pitch or off it, there were things outside that I didn't like. It's true that it's another football, another league. There you are in the best league in the world, with the best and here it is different, but everything is going well. I am very satisfied with the decision I made.

Were people unfair to Riqui Puig?

I was unlucky with some things, we changed a lot of coaches, there were many departures, the club was not good. Now I see Barça and their signings and they are back to their old self. I was in a situation where I wasn't very comfortable.

It wasn't the right time.

Being young, from the youth academy at that time didn't help. I didn't have continuity. Sometimes I get sad about it, but the truth is that they treat me well here.

Is your idea to pursue a career here or to return to Europe?

I have a contract here for two more years and at the end of the year, I will make a decision. I'm competitive and I want to play in a competitive league. This one is going to be, now Messi, Busi, Alba have arrived. We will see the idea that we all have. We need a more competitive team to fight to be at the top because I came here to win.

"Busi and Alba helped me a lot"

Are you already looking forward to playing against Inter Miami?

I talk to Busi and Alba every week. I'm looking forward to playing against former teammates and even more so on the other side of the world. Even more so with Busi, who helped me a lot in the dressing room. Alba too. I think they're going to have a great time in Miami.

It seems that you do think about returning to Europe.

For my football and my future, it's an idea you always have in your head. I came here very young, to train, to gain experience, but if an opportunity to go to Europe presents itself, I wouldn't say no. I'm not going to say no.

Oriol Romeu has returned to Barça, can you imagine yourself coming back?

He's been away from the club for many years, I've been away for a year. It's my team, I used to go to the stadium with my father when I was a kid, but now I have other things on my mind. Now I'm here and I'm thinking about the Galaxy. As for Oriol Romeu, I'm happy. He is going to give a lot to the club.

How do you see Barça?

I try to follow the games from here. The club is improving economically and you can see that in the signings they are making. I'm happy for the club because they deserve to win leagues like it has done this year and improve in Europe. We have had the squad in the last two years for something more, but we have lacked luck and some details. With this squad, they can aspire to many things.

How did your relationship with Xavi end?

Before the end of the season, we sat down and he told me that he didn't count on me. With the president it was different, he saw a future in me and wanted me to stay, but I wasn't going to stay at a club where the coach didn't want me. It hurt me when he didn't let me train the first few weeks (of preseason). The treatment was not good. I had a contract and I had to play as a player for the club that I was at. That annoyed me. I quickly looked for a way out and going to the other side of the world has been good for me.

Did he surprise you?

Yes. He called me twice and my parents to go to Qatar (with him). There was a relationship, between the families. It hurt me as a player and as the friends I thought we were with Xavi's family that I couldn't succeed with him. This sometimes happens, but not being able to train the first week of pre-season bothered me a lot.

But you are still Barça.

The Barça feeling will never change. I've had shirts since I was a kid. Now I'm far away and it's hard to follow, but I'm Barça. The whole family are members.

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