‘I was in Barcelona’s academy – but this weekend I play my real boyhood club’

Before he was setting standards by breaking into the Barcelona and Spain sides at the age of just 17 – Gavi was being nurtured in the Real Betis academy.

Born in 2004 with the full name of Pablo Martin Paez Gavira, Gavi was raised less than 30 minutes from Betis' Benito Villamarin Stadium and joined their academy at the age of nine.

Despite moving to Barcelona at 11 and been fast-tracked into the first-team set-up before even turning 18, the Green-and-Whites still hold a special place in his heart.

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Gavi has always been a popular figure among Betis fans, despite admitting in recent years that he grew up supporting Barcelona, due to him hailing from the region.

He will no doubt get a good reception from both sets of fans when Barcelona and Xavi welcome Manuel Pellegrini's Betis to the Camp Nou on Saturday evening (April 28), with both clubs having clear targets.

With Barcelona looking to get even closer to La Liga glory having forged an 11-point lead over Real Madrid, Betis are six points behind Champions League qualification with seven games to play.

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Gavi will no doubt play some part in what would be his 91st appearance for the club despite being months away from his 19th birthday – with his career only going in one direction.

He told Spanish newspaper MARCA: "I try to be myself, nothing more than that. Everything has gone very fast and things have happened to me that I couldn’t have imagined.

"But, I have a lot of people close to me who help me. I know where I am, who I am and where I come from."

Xavi has not held back with his praise of the youngster since his return to Barcelona in 2021, even calling him a born leader.

He said in January: "He is a kid that excites everyone. When you see him compete like that…the heart, soul and character that he plays with are contagious for the rest of the team.

"He's a born leader, too, that all comes naturally to him — and at the age of 18. He is spectacular. I have said it many times, but I don't get tired of praising him. He has no ceiling, so don't slow him down."


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