Power, explosiveness and an eye for goal: why Gabri Veiga is so in demand this summer
Renowned for their relentless conveyor belt of talent, the production line of gifted Spanish midfielders seems never-ending.
Pedri had his breakout year in 2021. 2022 was the year Gavi burst onto the scene. 2023 is proving to be the year of Gabri Veiga.
Unlike the two Barcelona midfielders, Veiga, 21, does not possess the ‘La Masia’ style expected of your typical Spanish midfielder. He is not a meticulous orchestrator who will control the tempo spraying the ball left, right and centre for 90 minutes. Rather, the Celta Vigo man possesses power and potency, carving teams open through devastating bursts instead of laser-guided passes.
“He has a different profile to all the other midfielders in Spain, who are usually about touch and possession. Gabri breaks games open”, said manager Carlos Carvahal.
The Spaniard is usually deployed as a right-sided central midfielder in a 4-3-3 but has also been utilised as part of the attack, playing as a right-midfielder in a 4-4-2, due to his will to bomb forward. He often scythes down the right and through the middle with bravery and valiance in abundance, not deterred by the consequence of a turnover.
Comparisons have been drawn to Real Madrid’s Federico Valverde and it is clear to see why. They both share exceptional athleticism, powerful ball-striking and are highly agile.
A powerful, confident dribbler, he ranks in the top 12% of midfielders in Europe in terms of successful take-ons and progressive carries, also scoring high in carries into the penalty area – sitting in the top 9%. Standing at 6ft tall, his long legs allow him to take huge strides forward, enabling him to evade any barriers in his path.
He embodies the phrase “There is no greater danger than playing it safe.” This is reflected in his underwhelming passing statistics.
Averaging only 21 passes a game and only completing 74% of his passes, he contrasts strongly to your typical Spanish midfield maestro. But that is what makes him unique and allows him to thrive, enabling him to maximize his true strengths. He is a risk-taker and avoids taking the easy option.
The dynamic midfielder ended his breakout season with 11 goals and four assists – directly contributing to 35% of his side’s goals. He became the first player born in 2002 or later to reach double figures in a single campaign in LaLiga.
No midfielder outscored him in LaLiga last season, despite his young age.
The 21-year-old carried the attacking burden all season and it was his double on the final day that secured safety.
Os Celestes entered the final game of the 2022/23 campaign knowing that anything but a win against La Liga champions Barcelona and they would be relegated to the second tier of Spanish football. Step forward, Gabri Veiga.
The academy product took the game by the scruff of the neck, rising to the occasion by netting a brace against the champions, spearheading his side to a 2-1 victory – skyrocketing his stock in the process.
The goals made him the youngest player to score a brace against Barcelona in LaLiga since Sergio Aguero in 2009.
A venomous striker of the ball with supreme confidence in his shooting ability, no player in the league last season scored more from outside the box than Veiga (four).
Premier League transfer on the cards?
After a remarkable breakthrough season, it is almost certain that Veiga has played his last game for Celta Vigo, with the £35M release clause in his contract likely to be triggered.
Liverpool, who are set to revamp their midfield this summer, are said to be leading the race for his signature, with reports suggesting meetings have already been held with his agent.
Chelsea are also said to be in the mix and are reportedly weighing up a bid.
“We want to keep Gabri Veiga but it will be impossible due to the release clause,” said club president Carlos Mourino.
“We know some bids he has, impossible to match.”
If his scintillating form continues, a call-up to Spain’s first team can’t be too far away.