Luis de la Fuente described the 3-1 victory over Georgia which secured Spain’s place as group winners and a seed at Euro 2024 as “the bitterest of my life” after Gavi was forced off with a knee injury that is expected to rule him out for the rest of the season and the European Championships.
Barcelona confirmed on Monday that the midfielder had suffered “a complete tear of the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and “an associated injury to the lateral meniscus. The player will have surgery in the coming days after which a new medical update will be released.”
Gavi was injured when he twisted in an attempt to control the ball midway through the first half. A few minutes earlier, he had gone down under a challenge from Luka Lochoshvili but continued. “He says it was not the knock but that he trod badly and his knee went,” De la Fuente said. “He’s [emotionally] broken, destroyed.”
When Ferran Torres scored Spain’s second, he marked it by holding up Gavi’s shirt. “Knowing what a warrior he is and given the way he left the field we know it must be serious,” Torres said.
“The dressing room is like a funeral parlour,” said De la Fuente. “It was an accident, it could have happened to anyone.” The Spain coach described his team as having played on with a “broken heart”.
Although there was no one near Gavi when he fell, Spain’s coach De la Fuente has faced fierce criticism since the injury, which has reopened the debate about the number of games played at elite level. Still only 19, Gavi has already played over 100 times for Barcelona and has made 27 appearances for Spain.
He had played 999 minutes with Barcelona this season, the second highest total among the club’s outfield players. He had played 90 minutes in Spain’s previous game against Cyprus in midweek but, while others had been rotated, he started against Georgia. Spain had already qualified for Euro 2024 but had not yet won the group and secured their status as a seed next summer. The plan had been for him to be withdrawn before full time.
“Gavi is hyperactive; he doesn’t want to stop,” De la Fuente had said on the eve of the game. “You just have to see him train. That’s why he plays so much and so well. Good players never rest, that’s why they are special. Only the very good players keep up that rhythm of games.” He had insisted then that players’ health is a priority but admitted that “the calendar is what it is” and that there is “always the risk of injury”.
After the match, the Spain coach pointed out that Gavi had sat out the previous game for his club through suspension and described the injury as bad luck. “This is the hardest moment I have experienced in football. We think we’re invulnerable but we’re fragile,” he said. “I’m not thinking about the Euros or the Olympics or anything, only about Gavi’s health. These are uncontrollable situations. It’s a pity. The lad was in perfect condition to play. We always protect the players.”