Pedri has the talent and ability to dominate the sport for the next decade. Keep an eye on this room. Jose Breton/Action/Snapshot via Getty Images.
This subject is so important that we have to start at the beginning. His working name is Pedri. He plays in midfield for Barcelona and Spain. His full name is Pedro Gonzalez Lopez. He turned 18 in November.
And now, ladies and gentlemen: I will build a body where we will see one of the world’s greatest talents blossom. Whether it is modern times or all times depends largely on him. It’s that good.
When Pedri is at the ball, the angels sing. Then they put away their harps and scores and just look on in amazement. His football brain is the size of California. He is bold, brave, fast and old fashioned, Leo Messi loves him, he loves the ball and the change, he loves him. We are talking about a player who is just a few months into his first season with one of football’s elite teams. In theory, we should get a glimpse of something special through the ups and downs as he finds his way through this diabolical jungle we call Premier League football.
Instead, this absolutely amazing footballer not only makes everything look like a walk in the park (literally), but constantly takes the lead to a point that is beyond comprehension. It’s like looking at the football equivalent of molten gold: elegant, liquid, attractive and extremely valuable.
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In case you haven’t seen his consistent dominance over the course of Barcelona’s season – where Pedri would automatically be their player without the resurgent Messi – the slender, little playmaker from the Canaries provided irrefutable proof that he is a class act off the pitch when he made his debut against Georgia in Tbilisi last Sunday.
Tensions were high before the game. With Greece fighting to survive last week in Granada and drawing 1-1, another loss to Spain on Sunday was out of the question, in other words, totally unthinkable. The last time they failed to win in their first two qualifying games was in 1957, thanks to a draw with Switzerland and a defeat in Scotland – from then on La Roja failed to qualify for the 1958 World Cup. Looking ahead to the match against their international rivals, who last beat them in Getafe in 2016, it is fair to say that it has been 15 years since Spain last had a win in a match. It was so serious.
For a teenager who got his start so much with golden age superstars like Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal, Pau Torres and Gerard Moreno and then complained against third-tier Luis Enrique that the ball bounced around like a rabbit, this could be a nightmare. Especially with a 1-0 lead at halftime, when Willie Sagnol’s Georgia team pushed hard, harassed and counterattacked.
Pedri, on the other hand, is a man who rolls up his sleeves and drops his socks. He has a recognizable canter, a slightly irregular trot on the ground. Throughout most of my career as a journalist, I have heard scouts from British clubs use the following phrase: He can’t say anything about the players he watched and, very similarly, he only questions their athletic ability. This doesn’t automatically mean that the player is obviously slow, it’s just that they make the running, and especially the sprinting, look nice and manage to make it look brutal.
At first glance, the way Pedri moves across the field is so quirky that some spectators may be distracted by his brilliance. He’s so smart and relentless in his movements that he reads situations long before they occur – long before they occur for most of his opponents – and so his arms and legs pump like pistons without any visible sweat or sprinting. Pedri is the best thing about team sports: the right man, the right place, the right time.
Everything became clear when Spain equalized. Pedri easily slipped into position and played to midfielder Otar Kiteishvili, who blocked the Georgian’s play. Off the ball, Dani Olmo gave the ball to Jordi Alba, who scored for Ferran Torres.
Shaka Hislop is surprised by Pedri’s rise at Barcelona, where the 18-year-old will be on the pitch in 2021.
The most spectacular moment in a masterful display of confidence, game insight, vision, technique and courage came 20 minutes after Spain’s direct qualification for the 2022 World Cup already seemed in danger.
Left winger Brian Gil sent Pedri 25 yards into the Georgia penalty area. Baby Bars didn’t look up. Instead, he put the ball on his right foot and played a long diagonal pass through a flurry of five white-clad opponents to Ferran Torres, who ran in at the far post.
It was a pass he shouldn’t have seen, let alone with tape over him. The City striker was so visibly shocked by Pedri’s outrageous technique that he let the ball go under his foot, missing a glorious opportunity.
Let’s go back to the summer of last year, when Pedri was still a 17-year-old midfielder for Las Palmas in the Spanish second division. It was the end of his breakthrough season, when he was only 16 years old and had already been rejected by Real Madrid after a trial period there. But Barcelona were wary of the little diamond, a motivated and improvisational player who seemed to have spent his entire life at the Catalan club’s La Masia academy. They made a deal with Las Palmas, delayed his arrival until after the pandemic season in Spain, and there he was: happy, excited, largely unknown, but utterly dangerous.
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Barcelona were not the only club to notice that something special was happening off the African coast, more than 600 miles south of the Spanish mainland. Bundesliga Borussia Monchengladbach were keen to sign Pedri immediately, as they feared he would be absorbed and eliminated by Barcelona’s highly fickle and erratic playing order at the time. He was also told, very firmly, that the best he could aspire to as a member of the Camp Nou staff for 2020-21 was to play in the second team.
Indeed, as Pedri Diario told Sport last July: I really hope Barca B get promoted to the second division, because another year there, like I just spent at Las Palmas when you were young, could be good for you. But my only goal is to become a player of Barcelona and to win with the club. So I understand that if they don’t consider me ready for the first team, it’s better to loan me out.
A must play. There were some very interesting offers from big German clubs [Bayern Munich was another]. They really insist on taking me away for a while and Barca knows about it. These are clubs who think I can be a useful player for them and gain experience at the same time.
Honestly: Think about it. Eight months ago, Pedri thought he would either spend a season in the second division with the Blaugrana’s academy boys, or try to learn German, brave a freezing Bundesliga winter and adapt to the back pressure.
Pedri, left, is already a friend and supporter of Messi at Barcelona. David S. Bustamante/Involved/Getty Images
42 career matches in the Barcelona first team so far Pedri, the hero of our story, is, behind the late Luis Suarez, the new best friend of Messi. He’s playing for the bookies’ favourite. With a win in La Liga – Barcelona are four points behind leaders Atleti – he has a chance of winning the Spanish Copa del Rey against Athletic Club in just over two weeks’ time, and on Sunday night he will be shown a red card after a terrible foul on Georgian Levan Schengelia.
The important thing about Pedri, at least for now, is that it doesn’t matter if you love, respect, hate or are indifferent to Barcelona. Watching him glide down the pitch, experiencing his supernatural anticipation, enjoying his instinctive play and setting the pace in midfield is a delight for anyone who loves football.
There are many tests ahead of him, including very important away games against Real Madrid and at home against Atleti, and no one – literally no one – is immune to slumps in form and confidence, especially a skinny, six-foot, inexperienced 18-year-old that opponents love to target. But I truly believe that if young Pedri can avoid a serious injury, we will witness the birth of a player who has the technical repertoire, the attitude, the character, the spirit and the learning environment to become one of the greats of Europe today. That’s how great this baby is.
Do yourself a favor. Follow his matches and watch them all. You’ve been warned: A real star is born.
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