The 17-year-old’s performance against Juventus gave a midfielder who has been compared to Andres Iniesta an excellent start at Camp Nou
Even when Ronaldo was banned from the first meeting between the two clubs in Turin on Wednesday due to a positive Covid-19 test, there was still a belief that the night would in some ways revolve around Messi.
The Argentine stepped on the field for the first time since Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu stepped down. Messi was finally free from the man who had helped turn his Camp Nou life into a misery in recent years and then blocked his request to go over the summer.
And yet, on Thursday morning after Barca’s 2-0 win over Serie A champions, the Spanish media’s attention was not focused on Messi or the absence of his longtime rival Ronaldo.
Instead, the press focused on a 17-year-old who, until a month ago, had never played a top-tier league game, let alone a European game between two world game titans.
“Pedri is the signature of the decade,” reads the Spanish newspaper brand After a performance by the midfielder that contradicted his age, lack of experience and the initial € 5m (£ 4m / $ 5.5m) fee Barca paid for signing Las Palmas.
The teenager played three to the left of midfield and showed the greatest self-confidence in possession and excellent position awareness without the ball.
Pedri completed 40 of his 42 attempted passes and was successful in five of his six dribbles – the most notable of which came when he performed a superb roulette curve to leave Adrien Rabiot motionless in the middle of the field.
Juan Cuadrado, meanwhile, had a chastening night when he tried to take out the teenager from Tenerife.
In the first half, part of Pedri’s role was to block Cuadrado’s overtaking lanes to get the ball into Juve’s two top playmakers, Paulo Dybala and Dejan Kulusevski.
He was largely successful and that meant when the game opened after the break he was able to play with Colombian international Cuadrado and left him on the ground twice when he jumped away to launch another attack.
With a global audience, it was Pedri, who announced himself as the player many in Spain have been looking forward to for a year.
The deal to bring him to Barca was made at the start of the 2019-20 season. His first three competitive games for Las Palmas were enough to convince the Camp Nou team that he could be a potential heir to Andres Iniesta.
The Blaugrana beat Real Madrid to secure their signing. Barca had to pay up to € 15m if certain performance-related goals were met. Early signs suggest that it will.
Regardless of the final fee, Barca appear to have gotten a steal as the youngster has already delivered on the promise that led his former Las Palmas manager Pepe Mel to label him as potentially “era defining”.
“Barcelona have made a good investment,” said Mel Tor in an interview in November 2019. “He understands the rooms very well when he has to go in and leave space outside or when you realize that you have numerical superiority in certain areas of the playing field.
“Everything he does with the ball, he understands the placement and how he can make it easier for his teammates with his simple game.
“He’s able to see that pass between the lines that knocks out opponents, and he doesn’t need a lot of touches to find these games.”
“Despite his age and his few games in professional football, he can always hold his head up and see all the options he has and he always chooses the best.”
It is these qualities that impressed Ronald Koeman. The new man in the Camp Nou dugout is already showing that he isn’t afraid to lean on young players if he thinks they are good enough.
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Much has been said about the Dutchman’s decision to tell highly rated La Masia graduate Riqui Puig that if he wants to play first-team football, he should try to leave the club, especially given some encouraging performances from the 21-year-old in the final weeks of Quique Setien’s reign.
But in Pedri the former Dutch coach seems to have found the ideal player to play in midfield alongside Frenkie de Jong and either Sergio Busquets or Miralem Pjanic – and he’s four years younger than Puig.
Pedri has appeared in each of Koeman’s seven competitive games and made his European debut last week with a goal against Ferencvaros.
His performances convinced his manager that he was ready to start the Clasico on Saturday against Real Madrid as well as in Turin. Given the importance of the two games for the first few weeks of the Barca season, it was a huge vote of confidence that the youngster paid back.
“Pedri is impressive, he showed his personality even though he is still very young,” Koeman told reporters after defeating Juve. “He will be a great player for Barca.”
Pedri is not only great, he also proves to be versatile.
Although Koeman is most comfortable playing on the left, he has used him as No. 10 at times while starting the game to the right of midfield in the Clasico.
The fact that he looked just as comfortable in all of his different roles further shows what a special talent Barca have in their hands.
Pedri won’t turn 18 until November 25th and is already helping dictate games at the highest level.
Last year around this time he played against teams like Ponferradina and CD Lugo. Now he is tasked with playing against Real Madrid and Juventus and playing a major role.
The sky is the limit for Spain’s newest teenage superstar.
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