He was a 16-year-old watching the Euro 2020 semi-final between Spain and Italy last summer. Fast-forward three months to the day and Gavi became a record breaking international debutant for his country in the San Siro.
Spain coach Luis Enrique was criticized for calling him up for this game after – according to the manager’s many critics, he had ‘only played five minutes of top flight football’ – but unfazed Luis Enrique picked him from the start.
And wearing the number nine shirt – in a team that doesn’t have a proper number nine – he did not disappoint his manager.
Aged just 17 years and 62 days Gavi didn’t just smash the previous record of 17 years and 284 days held since 1936 by Angel Zubieta, he also left Barcelona team-mates Pedri and Ansu Fati in the shade.
Pedri was 18 years and 120 days old when he debuted with the national side and Ansu was 17 years and 308 days.
And it’s not just his age that shocks. He has only needed 275 minutes of football in the top flight to make the grade for the national side. Only Munir El Haddadi needed less and he was fast-tracked to the Spain team because then-coach Vicente del Bosque didn’t want him to opt to play for Morocco.
This is no call up to stop the player going elsewhere either. Gavi hails from the same town in the south of Spain as Jesus Navas. He turned down Real Madrid as a youngster because he believed he had a better chance as a kid at Barcelona.
It’s paying off in his first season as a regular in first team squads.
The debut did not faze him. He fouled Federico Chiesa after just 13 minutes and 10 minutes later he was crashing into Marco Verratti. Another crunching challenge in the second half had Jorginho complaining that he still hadn’t been booked. It would not have been the first time this season.
He has shown that character before in a Barcelona shirt, already cautioned three times in just five games.
The aggression is seen as more a sign of not being intimidated rather than petulance. It’s only a part of his game and it will be his dynamism and ability to always protect the ball with his control, quick brain and body shape that becomes his trademark.
There is also a belief in Spain that his maturity and ability to take responsibility have helped fast track him and will help him continue his rise.
He was applauded for his attitude recently when he was asked what he thought about his call-up to the Spain team immediately after Barcelona had lost 2-0 away at Atletico Madrid. ‘I’m pleased but right now I just annoyed about this defeat’, he said.
When many at Barcelona were calling for other players to be thrown forward into the first team Ronald Koeman picked out Gavi as the player who was ready. Luis Enrique backed up that judgment.
Italy didn’t like being schooled by the school kids and late on when they surrounded 18-year-old Yeremi Pino after he’d retaliated by kicking out at Manuel Locatelli it was Gavi who stepped in between his older team-mate and blue shirts around him.
He finally went off on 84 minutes having carried himself like a leader not a kid who was just a fan of the Spanish national team three months ago. Luis Enrique has scoffed at the criticism of his selections telling critics that he knows more than they do. When it comes to Gavi it seems he does.