From Iago Aspas to Brais Mendez, Celta de Vigo’s academy has produced a treasure trove of footballers over the past few decades, and the latest talent to make a name for himself at Balaídos is Gabri Veiga. Having amassed just six and seven La Liga appearances in the past two seasons, Veiga has enjoyed a breakthrough campaign under Carlos Carvalhal with 9 goals and 3 assists in 25 matches, capturing the hearts of the Galician fanbase at the tender age of 20 years old.
Born in O Porriño, Pontevedra, Spain, Veiga joined Celta’s academy at the age of 11 and made his debut for Celta Vigo’s reserves against Internacional de Madrid in 2019 at the age of 17, before debuting for the first team a year later and coming on as a late substitute in a 2-1 home win against Valencia on September 19, 2020. Two years later, Veiga scored his first professional goal in a 4-1 defeat to Atlético Madrid, a match that would pave the way for a sensational campaign.
Veiga scored the winner in a 1-0 victory against Real Betis on October 2, but the rest of the month proved to be a horror story for the Galicians, who lost to Barcelona, Real Sociedad, Real Valladolid, and drew 1-1 to Getafe before losing 3-1 to Almería, a match that would see Veiga open the scoring within 25 minutes and get sent off seven minutes later. This proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back — Eduardo Coudet was sacked after two years in charge, and Carlos Carvalhal took the reins.
Under the Portuguese manager, Veiga has emerged as one of the first names on the team sheet and the creative talisman in midfield, closing out the year with a goal in a 1-1 draw against Sevilla and playing a key role as Celta enjoyed a strong start to 2023, beating Elche 1-0, drawing 1-1 to Villarreal (Veiga picked up an assist), losing 1-0 to Mallorca and beating Athletic Club 1-0.
Veiga was definitively promoted to the first team on January 11 and carried his impressive form into the following month, grabbing a brace in a 4-3 win against Real Betis as well as a brace and an assist in a 3-0 win against Real Valladolid. This would see him named as Gabri Veiga has been named as the LaLiga Santander Player of the Month for February, beating out competition from Frenkie de Jong, Eduardo Camavinga, Sergio Canales, Oihan Sancet, Reinildo Mandava and Fran Garcia.
Celta opened March with a 0-0 draw to Osasuna before thrashing Rayo Vallecano 3-0 and beating Espanyol 3-1, with Veiga opening the scoring within 26 minutes. Carvalhal was faced with the looming threat of a relegation battle when he took over in November, but he has led them to 10th in the table, eight points above the drop and seven away from the final European spot.
One of the most important players in this turnaround has been Veiga, who looks set to follow in the footsteps of Michel Salgado, Iago Aspas, Hugo Mallo, Jorge Otero, Javi Gonzalez, Denis Suarez, Rodrigo, Joselu, Ruben Blanco, Rodrigo, Brais Mendez, and many more and go from playing in Celta’s academy to making a name for himself in Spain’s top flight.
According to FBRef, Veiga has pushed his expected goals tally to an average of 5.4 with an expected average goal of 0.11 per 90 at the rate of 98%, averaging 3.29 shot-creating actions per 90 at the rate of 82%. Veiga’s shot total is an average of 3 per 90 at the rate of 99%. The below Wyscout graph showcases his ability as a goal threat, comparing his expected goals and expected assists per 90 with other midfielders in La Liga.
Gabri Veiga has an average pass completion of 76.8%, his progressive pass is estimated at 4.82 with a progressive carry average of 2.94 according to FBRef. With 1.88 successful take-ons and a 98% accuracy rate, Veiga has the capability to create a move and find space, as seen in Celta’s win against Rayo Vallecano where he proved a driving force in one of Aspas’ goals. According to Wyscout, Gabri Veiga makes 0.25 key passes at the rate of 30 per 90, showing his ability to make decisive passes.
Veiga is excellent at getting the ball forward from deep — he is a midfielder who is confident and who is not afraid to take shots from long range. He excels at making progressive passes and creating goal-scoring chances for his teammates, but he is also skilled at driving forward and shielding the ball from opponents on the counter as well as exploiting deep blocks with his pinpoint passing.
We can see in the below Wyscout graph where Veiga ranks amongst La Liga’s top midfielders when it comes to progressive passes and progressive runs per 90.
When it comes to the defensive side of things, Veiga is averaging 2.23 tackles per 90 at a success rate of 59% whilst his interceptions come to an average of 0.94 with a success rate of 38%. He makes 1.29 blocks with a rate of 59%, whilst he also makes 0.18 clearances and wins 0.82 aerial duels — for all the good work that he has done in the final third, it is clear that he needs to improve defensively and physically if he is to fulfill his potential as one of the best midfielders in the game as well as regular in the Spanish national team.
With a contract until 2026 and a release clause of €40 million, it seems a matter of when rather than if Veiga leaves Galicia and earns a move to one of Europe’s biggest clubs. Celta president Carlos Mouriño has admitted as much, stating, “We do not want to sell Gabri Veiga, but they are going to buy him from us and we can’t do anything about it. We know some of their offers and it’s impossible for us to match them. Of the top ten teams in the Premier League, four have asked us about him. For us, and to make it clear, he is not for sale. We have nothing to negotiate with anyone. We refer to the clause. The decision is Gabri’s, he will play wherever he wants.”
At 20 years of age, Gabri Veiga looks set to play a crucial role for the Spanish national team alongside the likes of Alejandro Balde (19), Gavi (18), Nico Williams (20), Pedri (20), Yeremy Pino (20), Pedro Porro (23) and more as La Roja look to transition to a new era under Luis de la Fuente. If he keeps up his stellar form in Balaídos, a maiden call-up could very well be on the horizon for Veiga.
By: Ogunniyi Abayomi / @OGUNNIYIABAYOM1
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