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Gabri Veiga: The Celta Vigo whizkid all of Europe are now chasing

Celta Vigo attacking midfielder Gabri Veiga is enjoying a breakout season and his goal tally of six is the third-highest across Europe's top five leagues for all U21 players.

Veiga, tipped to be the next young star of Spanish football, has a long list of skills and abilities, but if one thing sticks out about this supremely confident 20-year-old then it's his ability to strike a ball. The secret to his ball-striking abilities, however, may surprise you.

"I began playing football because of pumpkins," he has explained.

Playing at his uncle's house when he was a toddler, he discovered a pumpkin on the kitchen floor and started to kick it "out of curiosity". From then on, all he wanted to do was kick balls and he joined his first football club aged four.

Later, as a 12-year-old, he was enrolled in the famed A Madroa academy of local Galician club RC Celta and now, in 2022/23, the attacking midfielder has emerged as one of the team's key players, working up a profitable partnership with Iago Aspas, the team's most senior and exceptional player and another who also came through the club's academy many years ago.

Six goals already this season, the third-most in Europe for U21 players

Between them, Aspas and Viega are responsible for scoring 15 of RC Celta's 22 LaLiga Santander goals this season and the veteran striker has done his part in making the youngster feel comfortable, personally setting up two of the midfielder's six goals this season.

Veiga's goal count this campaign, his first full season in the first team, is nothing short of stunning. Only Real Sociedad's Brais Méndez has scored more goals from midfield in LaLiga Santander this season.

In his age category, Veiga is truly standing out. Of all the Under-21 players in Europe's top five leagues, Veiga has the third-highest goal tally, only trailing Bayern Munich's Jamal Musiala and Montpellier's Elye Wahi. Also, he is the Under-21 player with the most goals produced in LaLiga this season (6 goals and two assists), tied with Nico Williams.

Veiga is about much more than his goals, however. He has proved his versatility throughout his youth career, playing in every position aside from goalkeeper, centre-back and left-back.

It is perhaps that rich variety of experience which has seen him to develop into the player he is today: a midfielder with remarkable vision and ability to make the final pass, with the courage and pace to take players on and the timing to run in behind defences and latch on to through balls.

"In my career I've only seen one or two players who have the characteristics of Veiga," said RC Celta coach Carlos Carvalhal, who has been in management for 25 years. "He is a very complete player. He has a different profile to all the other midfielders in Spain, who are usually about touch and possession. Gabri breaks games open."


A player who can score different types of goals

As Carvalhal alluded to, Veiga's qualities make him the ideal link between midfield and attack and his six goals this season showcased his various attributes. The two most eye-catching goals were his long-range rockets against Real Betis and UD Almería, with the former being his first goal in front of the home fans at Balaídos, when he rounded three defenders before pinging the ball into the far bottom corner, while the latter goal was a thumping drive from outside the area with hardly any back-lift, which cannoned in off the crossbar.

His first goal had come against Atlético de Madrid, a first-time finish which crept in at the near post, while he produced an ice-cool shot to score against Sevilla FC after racing on to a through ball from Aspas.

His best individual display yet, however, came in the thrilling 4-3 win at Real Betis earlier this month. He scored RC Celta's second goal with a cheeky lob right in front of goalkeeper Rui Silva after creating the danger himself with two clever headers. He then gave his side the lead by appearing at just the right time to knock in Jørgen Strand Larsen's cross from the byline.

What next for Veiga? He was believed to be under consideration by Luis Enrique as a potentially surprise call-up for the World Cup and, even if he didn't go to Qatar, his debut for Spain's senior team cannot be far away. It may even come in March, when Luis de la Fuente will name his first squad as Spain coach for the upcoming Euro 2024 qualifiers.

An international debut is bound to further raise Veiga's profile and confirm what everyone at RC Celta already knows: that he has what it takes to make it to the very top.

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Carlos Volcano
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Carlos Volcano


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