Spain's head coach, Luis de la Fuente, has found himself at the centre of controversy as Barcelona voiced their discontent over Gavi's participation in the match, particularly since La Roja had already secured their qualification. The Catalan giants expressed frustration, pointing fingers at De la Fuente for exposing their young star to unnecessary risk.
Defending his decision, De la Fuente stated, "I understand Barca's complaints, but if it's not Gavi, it could have happened to someone else." He emphasized the inherent risks in football, noting that injuries can occur at any time, whether in a competitive fixture, training, or any other situation. The manager highlighted the unpredictability of the sport, explaining, "Sometimes people don't realize the risk that every moment entails from the moment you put on your boots."
Gavi's injury occurred in the 26th minute of the game when his knee gave way while attempting to control the ball, compounded by a previous heavy knock to the same knee. Early assessments indicate a possible torn ACL, putting an end to Gavi's current season and potentially ruling him out of the upcoming Euro 2024 and the Olympics next summer.
Barcelona's dissatisfaction with De la Fuente intensified due to his pre-match comments about Gavi's workload. The coach asserted, "Good players don't need rest," a statement that did not sit well with the club, given the circumstances that followed.
Responding to concerns about Gavi's future participation in major tournaments, De la Fuente redirected the focus to the player's well-being, stating, "Now I'm not even thinking about the European Championships, with all due respect. Only the health of the player." This sentiment underlines the gravity of the situation, emphasizing the immediate concern for Gavi's recovery rather than his potential availability for future competitions.
Describing the emotional toll the injury took on the team, De la Fuente shared, "It is the most complicated, bitter, and difficult day of my career." He painted a sombre picture of the atmosphere in the locker room, comparing it to a mourning setting. Despite securing a 3-1 victory, the impact of Gavi's injury overshadowed the triumph.
Reflecting on the incident, De la Fuente clarified that the injury was an unfortunate accident unrelated to any prior knocks, revealing, "The damage was done in a control in which he was turning, he stepped wrong and the knee went out." Gavi's reaction to the injury was described as one of sadness and confusion, with the coach expressing empathy, acknowledging the fragility that life teaches even the most seemingly invincible athletes.