Who is Gavi, the 17-year-old who became the Spanish national team’s youngest ever debutant?

Aged 17 and 62 days, the Barcelona midfielder has broken the record after featuring in the Nations League’s Final Four.

History was made during the October international break, with Luis Enrique having called up Pablo Martín Páez Gavira, more commonly known as Gavi, to the senior Spanish national team. With FC Barcelona’s rising star making his debut against Italy on Wednesday night in the Nations League semi-finals then he became La Roja’s youngest ever debutant aged just 17 years and 62 days.

The record was held by Ángel Zubieta, who made his first Spain appearance at 17 years and 284 days back in 1936, so Gavi surpassed that feat by more than 200 days. Some give the record for Spain’s youngest ever player to Pedro Regueiro for his appearance in a friendly with Portugal in 1927, but that was technically a Spanish ‘B team’ since La Roja’s starters were playing a game against Italy that same day. Even still, Regueiro’s appearance came with 17 years and 161 days, so Gavi has still comfortably beaten that. He’s also debut more than half a year earlier than his friend and club teammate Ansu Fati, who did so aged 17 years and 308 days.

It has been a rapid rise for Gavi, who has skipped the U19 and U21 age groups to go straight to the senior squad. That is similar to his meteoric progression through La Masia, the academy he joined aged 11 in 2015 after taking his first steps in football with Real Betis in his home province of Seville. After arriving in FC Barcelona’s renowned football school, Gavi worked his way through the various age categories to the point where he made his debut for the Catalan club’s senior side earlier this season by coming on for the final 16 minutes of Barça’s 2-1 victory over Getafe CF in LaLiga Santander.

Gavi’s style of play fits perfectly into FC Barcelona’s midfield, with comparisons to Xavi based on a lot more than the similarity of their names. Despite his small frame, the right-footed midfielder can get the better of bigger, stronger and older opponents through his intuition and rapid reading of the field. Able to accurately spin the ball to a teammate’s feet when pressed, he is exactly what Ronald Koeman is looking for in a midfielder and even drops deep on occasion to take the lead when bringing the ball out from the back.

That’s why Gavi has even been trusted to start important matches, such as the recent clash away at Atlético Madrid. FC Barcelona have suffered an injury crisis to start the 2021/22 campaign, but most of those physical issues have come in attack or in defence. Gavi’s minutes haven’t been given to him because of a lack of alternative options in midfield. On the contrary, he has earned those opportunities to start ahead of older and more experienced midfield talents.

With Pedri and Ansu Fati yet to celebrate their 19th birthdays, FC Barcelona really do have an exciting young core of up-and-coming talents and Gavi is very much a part of this reason for optimism. This is encouraging for the Spanish national team too and the genesis of what could be a promising international career for Gavi taking place this week.

Three things you may not know about Gavi

His move into La Masia accommodation

After being signed by FC Barcelona’s academy from Real Betis at the age of 11, Gavi moved to the Catalan capital with his family and they stayed in an apartment in the very centre of town in La Rambla. Before long, though, he told his family that they should move back to Andalusia and that he would move into the accommodation at La Masia, convinced he could make it at the Blaugrana.

His triumph at LaLiga Promises

LaLiga Promises is one of the most prestigious youth football tournaments in the world and Gavi won this title during his youth career. In the 2016 edition, Barça were the victors as they defeated Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid in the semi-finals and final, with Gavi scoring both of the goals in the 2-0 semi-final win over the Catalan club’s great rivals.

His red card on his most recent Spain experience

The last time Gavi played for Spain at any level was in a friendly match for the U18s against France in May of this year. That 2-2 draw wasn’t his happiest experience, as the midfielder was shown a straight red card in the 36th minute. Since then, though, Gavi has enjoyed success after success and now has made history with La Roja’s senior side.

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