“You’re going to get one chance, and you’re going to score it.”
With these words, Xavi sent 17-year-old substitute Marc Guiu onto the field for his Barcelona debut against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday night.
Xavi’s team faced the game with several key players injured. Pedri, Frenkie de Jong, Robert Lewandowski, Jules Kounde, Raphinha, and Sergi Roberto were all absent. Lamine Yamal and Alejandro Balde were only cleared to play on the day of the match. On the bench were several youth team players who were largely unknown to the fans.
One of those players was Guiu. With less than 10 minutes remaining in the match, the home team desperately needed a goal. And it only took Guiu 23 seconds to deliver.
Guiu substituted Fermin Lopez in the forward line and quickly positioned himself on the field. As Barca controlled the ball at the back, Inigo Martinez brought it forward and passed it to Joao Felix, who had been carrying the team throughout the game.
As soon as Joao Felix gained possession, Guiu made a run, using his fresh legs to find space behind the Bilbao defense. Once he received the pass from Joao Felix, Guiu only needed two touches to find the back of the net. A left-footed control followed by a right-footed finish. Unai Simon, the Bilbao goalkeeper, was finally beaten.
Guiu celebrated in a frenzy, stretching his arms towards the sky, while all the Barca players on the pitch and on the bench joined in the jubilation. Xavi embraced members of his coaching team in the dugout.
In the stands, Lewandowski and De Jong celebrated as well. Guiu’s mother, in another section of the crowd, cried and screamed in excitement, clutching her chair and placing her hand on her chest, exclaiming, “That’s insane!” Guiu’s father, with a smile on his face, stood up and applauded his son.
When the referee blew the final whistle, Guiu dropped to the pitch, seemingly needing a connection with reality. He covered his face, laughing and crying tears of joy. Yes, this was actually happening.
The TV cameras sought Guiu out, and he stood up to receive a powerful embrace from Lopez and the other youngsters on the bench — Ander Astralaga, Hector Fort, and Unai Hernandez — who rushed towards him once the game was over.
Guiu looked up into the stands, possibly searching for his family, wanting to share the moment with them too. And while everyone hailed him as the hero, he hurried over to Inaki Williams to ask for his shirt as a souvenir. Williams, despite the defeat, smiled and gave it to him.
“I can’t believe it, I’m short of breath,” Guiu said on TV, his cheeks still red from the exertion. “I’m enjoying the moment. This is unimaginable, but I’ve been working all my life to take advantage of opportunities and it’s come to me.
“Inigo told me I won’t be able to sleep, but to enjoy it.”
Interviewed by David Villa on DAZN, Guiu displayed his shyness by looking at the ground when Villa spoke, before acknowledging, slightly embarrassed, that Villa was one of his idols.
“La Masia works,” the young player added. “A great job is being done and it has to be taken advantage of in difficult moments for the club like now.”
Guiu is a center-forward who came up through Barca’s youth academy, joining at the age of seven. Despite representing Spain at various levels — he was the joint top-scorer at this summer’s Under-17 European Championship along with Yamal — Guiu hadn’t been widely regarded as a player destined for the first team.
But through hard work and growing confidence, Guiu has been climbing the ranks to reach this moment. He possesses speed, power, and aerial ability. He plays for Barca’s under-17 ‘Juvenil A’ side and has been called up for some matches with Barcelona Atletic, the reserve team that competes in Spain’s third tier, although he’s not a regular. The new sporting director, Deco, is a big fan.
“The whole club should celebrate his goal,” Xavi said after Sunday’s 1-0 victory. “It’s a demonstration that we’re working very well with the youth system.
“I can see the desire to play in these boys’ faces; they’re not scared at all like my generation. They look at me with desire, telling me to play them, they look at me with positivity.”
Guiu’s hunger secured the victory in what was otherwise a lackluster game. Improvement will be needed against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League on Wednesday and in Saturday’s home Clasico against Real Madrid.
However, while the team recovers from injuries, they can celebrate the emergence of an unexpected match-winner with a bright future ahead.
(Top photo: Josep Lago/AFP via Getty Images)
Michael Johnson is your soccer guru, providing extensive coverage of soccer. With a global perspective, he delivers match reports, player interviews, and insights into the beautiful game, ensuring readers stay connected to the world of soccer.