PROFILING HIS BEST ATTRIBUTES ASSESSING HIS FUTURE ANALYSING HIS STATS LEARNING ABOUT HIS STORY SO FAR
Who is Pedri?
By the time Pedri’s first pre-season as a professional had ended, his coach was already resigned to an inevitable fate. “Enjoy him”, urged Pepe Mel, the UD Las Palmas coach. “We don’t know how long this is going to last.”
Pedri was 16 years old at the time – as rookie as a rookie gets. On his first day with the senior team, he admitted to being “terrified,” not knowing how to act or what to say in such an environment. As far as most were concerned, he was an academy product being given a tentative look and helping to make up the pre-season numbers.
Within the space of a few friendly outings, that was history. Even the most casual viewers could see the talent emanating from him, the brightness and invention he showed with every other touch of the ball. Pedri’s ability outweighed his physical limitations against experienced professionals.
From there, Pedri’s career accelerated at an astonishing rate. Just a few months after he was handed a bib in pre-season, the teenager was signed on a long-term deal by Barcelona – the Catalans seizing upon him with just a handful of senior appearances. Pedri was left on loan at Las Palmas for the rest of the season, where he continued to blossom into the world of professional football.
Since signing for Barcelona, his contribution on the pitch has only increased. No longer is it a novelty to see a player so young starting regularly in the second division, nor is it rare for him to leave the pitch with a man-of-the-match award in his hand.
Throughout the course of the season, Pedri has not only earned his senior stripes – he has become one of the best players in the Segunda División.
Pedri's style of play
In the fragile process of bringing young players into the first team picture, minutes and opportunities usually need to be carefully considered. For Las Palmas boss Pepe Mel, the only dilemma has been how much he can get away with playing Pedri.
It would be no exaggeration to say the 17-year-old has been the team’s catalyst this season; a player that even the most senior players in the squad will look to in difficult moments. Fortunately for them, Pedri wants to play every minute, and always welcomes the ball at his feet.
The teenager has played across a number of different midfield roles this season, but is versatile enough to be happy in any of the advanced positions. Las Palmas have alternated between 4-2-3-1, 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 for the most part since Pedri came into the team, with his most frequent placement usually coming as a number ten or as a wide player granted freedom to roam in the opposition half.
The teenager’s most striking quality is his natural ability in carrying the ball. The native of Tenerife has all the hallmarks of a traditional attacking player from the Canary Islands: expression, flair, and bravery to stand defenders up.
Where coaching and tactical advice will enhance the other parts of Pedri’s game in time, his ball-carrying ability is already at a natural peak. While most adept ball carriers rely on a sizable speed advantage, Pedri is effective on the strength of his craft and technical skills.
Given his ability to manage the ball in tight spaces, his long-term future probably lies in the centre of the pitch. He is far from slow, however, and certainly possesses an above-average injection of pace over the first five to ten yards. When combined with his intelligence in reading defensive positioning, he is a very difficult player to keep under control.
Indeed, Pedri’s qualities on the ball are exemplified by his production of chances this season. At 17 years of age, he leads all players in the Spanish second division in chances created from open play (57).
He also ranks sixth in the competition for expected assists from open play (4.5), trailing only Borja García and Manu García, but closely sharing their company as the most effective creators in the league.
His work without the ball also lends itself to a future at Barcelona. Pedri is very willing to press the opposition and work hard to close defenders down.
Whether situated as a ten or on the wing, his defensive work has always been at least competent; as a player who thrives with the ball at his feet, he has always done a reliable job in sacrificing for the team when needed.
Forecasting Pedri's Future Prospects
Reports indicate Pedri will form part of Barcelona’s pre-season in 2020/21, although with the club likely to be in a time of transition ahead of the new campaign it is difficult to predict what sort of immediate opportunities the youngster will have – especially considering the first team’s current abundance of midfielders, as well as the emergence of Riqui Puig.
But he is still only 17 years old. It seems likely Pedri will spend another season out on loan in 2020/21. After such an outstanding debut season, it would be an enormous error to stall continuity in his playtime.
He needs to be starting games on a weekly basis, regardless of level or competition. If that is to be the case, Barcelona must decide whether he spends another season with Las Palmas, or whether a step up to a top-flight league is within his capabilities.
As far as talent goes, there is no doubt the top flight is where he is headed – the conundrum being that his superb debut season might force him beyond his means too early. Talent aside, if the coach at any prospective destination is not willing to play him every week, a loan would be a futile exercise.
Before he had even played a senior game for Las Palmas, Pepe Mel told Real Betis – his closest football tie – to sign Pedri quick, before the inevitable barrage of super-club attention arrived. Then, during that pre-season, Mel privately described him as a “superstar” in waiting.
Nothing he has produced since would dissuade onlookers from believing that he was right. Long term, only a career disaster will stop Pedri becoming a key figure in Spanish football in the next decade.
Pedri is a phenomenally gifted midfield playmaker, with the vision, technical quality and passing range to match the best in the world.
Pedri is a little undersized, but it is really difficult to fault his overall game. Any manager using him should easily be able to hide some minor issues out of possession.