Xavi Hernandez has hailed Gavi as the "future of Football Club Barcelona" after the young midfielder's impressive breakthrough into the first-team. The 17-year-old prodigy was heavily scouted and was wanted by Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, but he chose the Catalan giants for just one reason.

Barcelona could have been watching enviously had Gavi not chosen them when arch rivals Real Madrid came calling for his signature. The Spain international even spent time with both the Madrid clubs before choosing to ply his trade at the Catalan capital in 2015, when he was still with the Real Betis youth side.

Manuel Vasco, one of Gavi's first coaches in the Andalusian town of Los Palacios, spoke about how the young midfielder only wanted to join Barcelona despite strong interest from Real and Atletico. He was also courted by Sevilla owing to the proximity to his home town.

"I know that [Real] Madrid and Atletico wanted him, but when he went to Barcelona he told his parents: 'Dad, the best [players] are here and I want to play here,'" Vasco said, as quoted by Marca. "Barcelona signed him in a tournament that took place in the Algarve, in which he was chosen as the best player and Barcelona took him."

Young midfielder Gavi has been a rare plus point for Barca this season OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP

"But before that, I think he was in Madrid with both teams, and they were watching him, and he was clear that, if he had to choose between the big clubs, he liked Barcelona more," he concluded.

Gavi has emerged as a key player under Xavi and the former Barcelona midfielder highlighted the importance of keeping the young sensation at the club in the long-term. The Spain international's current contract expires in 2023, and the Catalan club are keen to tie him down to a new deal sooner rather than later.

"He [Gavi] is a spectacular player, we can't lose that level of player. We can't lose Gavi, Nico, Abde, Ansu, Pedri, Araujo, these guys are the present and the future of the club," Xavi said during a press conference earlier in the year. "And Gavi is definitely one of them. I understand, I know the club is working really well to negotiate his contract. He's fundamental to this team."

Newly-appointed Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez (right) alongside club president Joan Laporta at Camp Nou on Monday. LLUIS GENE/AFP