Inaki Pena was the standout Barcelona player in Thursday’s Europa League draw with Galatasaray – unfortunately for Xavi, he was playing in the opposition goal.
Goalkeeper Pena is on loan at Galatasaray from Barca, and so their unexpected meeting in European competition has provided the 23-year-old an opportunity to impress.
He did exactly that as Galatasaray returned from Camp Nou with a goalless draw, leaving the last-16 tie in the balance heading back to Turkey for the second leg.
Pena, who has never played for Barca’s first team, made four saves and prevented 1.1 goals, according to expected goals on target data.
Memphis Depay was denied twice, while there were further stops from Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong on a frustrating evening for the Blaugrana.
“Inaki Pena has been spectacular,” said Xavi, although he was not the only Galatasaray player worthy of praise.
The Barca coach added: “Their central defenders were phenomenal and they didn’t allow us to finish our moves off. It’s a shame because we dominated.
“Although we created fewer chances than normal, we created enough to score.”
Pena was unsurprisingly asked how his performance might have helped his chances of a long-term Barca future, but he remains focused on the task at hand.
“I played a good game and I’m very happy with my performance,” he said. “I needed minutes and here I am getting them.
“I am focused on Galatasaray. I am very clear that I have a contract with Barca and I have to return in June.”