Sunday night, I read a take by Anxo Salcedo, manager of the best YouTube channel on Galician football, Fica coa Bola, that seemed like the most accurate description of the exact moment in which Celta de Vigo avoided relegation and clinched a spot in LaLiga’s next season. Anxo quoted Christopher Reeves, the actor who played Superman in his first movies, who said that a hero is “a regular individual who finds the strength to persevere and tolerate despite facing overwhelming hurdles”. There really is not a better definition of what Gabri Veiga will be to Celta’s fans for the remainder of his life: a hero.
This RC Celta – FC Barcelona portrayed how a big part of the season has been for Vigo’s team, with all their squad petrified by fear and an academy player showing up to save an entire city and cheer the more than 300.000 people who live in the metropolitan surroundings.
Celta came into the match with the worst streak in the entirety of LaLiga Santander: one last-minute win against the worst team in the league in the last eleven matches. Stats worthy of a second division team.
They had been playing with fire for far too many years, and Iago Aspas was not there to save them this time, they were going to get burnt.
But then a man, definitely not a boy, appeared to certify their stay in the Spanish first division with a brace. Without Iago Aspas, with a mentally dismantled squad and a pessimistic fanbase by nature, Gabri Veiga Novas managed to fulfill his last achievement wearing sky blue. Indeed, his last service to the club as sources close to the wonderkid can confirm he will not continue to play for RC Celta de Vigo next season.
However, Gabri is not leaving because he wishes to do so. Celta’s front office have made clear that they would rather get 40 million in capital profit for their homegrown star than make the revelation of the season in Spain (11 goals and four assists as a midfielder) the cornerstone of their project and an example for the rest of the academy. An understandable but hurtful decision.
It is not hard to comprehend that a humble club is better off guaranteeing a sale to attain great profit, but their fandom will not forgive the attempt to make Gabri the villain of the situation and that, despite him proving his love for the institution, the board has not tried to extend his contract and increase his salary and release clause to amplify the transfer’s fee.
It is not only an action that shows conformism and a lack of ambition in the project, but also a clear message to one of the best academies in Spain (as proven by their tremendous results like Celta B achieving the promotion playoffs to the second division thanks to the performance of players like Hugo Sotelo, Hugo Álvarez, Damián, Losada, Lauti, Tincho, etc.): they are only seen as a source of income who will get shipped as soon as a transfer opportunity arises.
There are things bigger than finances and, sometimes, passion is one of them.
His destination will be the Premier League and, even though a lot of teams are interested and the latest news set Liverpool or Newcastle as the favorites to land the rising star, it looks like Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City could be the one to have the Porriño-native talent on their roster next season. Hopefully, Guardiola will mold him like he deserves, not only as a footballer, but also as a worker and as a person.
This weekend, the act of a hero that knows he is taking on his last adventure took place. Gabri was not Superman saving the world, but a firefighter rescuing a family before the building that holds their home crumbles into pieces.
He was a regular man born in Vigo without any superpowers (he never had the tag of a superstar like other players to come out of Celta’s academy such as Miguel Rodríguez) who gave his all for the people and the club that he loved.
He was the biggest fan of Celta and, despite him leaving in the next transfer window, he will always be.
Thank you Gabri. Vigo will always be in debt with you.
Translated by Nuño Alonso.
Main image: @RCCelta.