A year ago to the day (Monday) Juanjo Narvaez scored a fairly important goal. In stoppage time of the Las Palmas game, he recovered a pass that played him on goal, he took a touch that maybe made him pass a bit to the side, then shot the ball into the net.
This put Las Palmas 2-0 against Ponferradina in the Spanish division of Segunda. The two teams entered the game just two points apart, putting them five and three points away from relegation to the third tier, respectively. Narvaez would add a third just two minutes later to give Las Palmas a well-deserved victory. The Canary Islands team would take seven points in their last four games and finish in ninth place, although a gap of just six points between them and the relegation zone shows how close they were to what they were. she was. would have been a catastrophic demotion.
The pass for Narvaez’s decisive goal? It came from a 17-year-old who was set to bond with Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and of course Lionel Messi at Barcelona in just a few months. The pass came from Pedro Gonzalez Lopez, or as we know him, Pedri.
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After helping his local club stay in the second division, the teenager joined a team in turmoil with Messi wanting to leave and the club having sacked two managers in the same season. It’s not an ideal development ground for a player with Pedri’s potential. It was speculated that he could move on loan to get a solid football season.
A year later, we are there. Pedri played a leading role for Barcelona during a difficult season and has now shone as Spain’s best player at Euro 2020, helping Luis Enrique’s bewildered side reach the semi-finals, where they face Italy.
It’s really ridiculous to see an 18 year old kid dominating European midfielders like that. Jude Bellingham has rightly received a lot of praise for what he was able to accomplish in his first season in Germany. But Pedri is only seven months older and is already a nailed starter for one of the biggest clubs in the world and a national team that recently won three international tournaments in a row – that’s utter nonsense.
Much like Bellingham, it’s maturity that really stands out in Pedri’s play. He is calm and composed in possession of the ball, he rarely wastes the ball and almost always makes the right decision. Awareness can be what makes you sit down and take notice. Even at such a young age, Pedri has an incredible understanding of the game. You can see it in the way he uses his body as well as the ball to manipulate space and opposing players. This allows him to place his teammates in better positions to maintain an attack. So far in this tournament, only four players have made more passes than him, and they will all be on the pitch with him on Tuesday. In descending order, they are Aymeric Laporte, Pau Torres, Jordi Alba and Jorginho.
(LR) Spanish midfielder Sergio Busquets, Spain striker Pedri and Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon attend a training session at the Ciudad del Futbol in Las Rozas near Madrid on July 3, 2021 during the soccer competition UEFA EURO 2020.
Image credit: Getty Images
It is perhaps not surprising for a player who grew up with Andres Iniesta as a role model that he is so nice to watch. He has the same effortless glide, the rare ability to make something extremely difficult seem nonchalant. He might not score many goals throughout his career, but his delicate touch and hyper-conscious brain are going to ensure a plethora of highlights for him when he retires.
On Tuesday night he will face one of the best international midfielders we’ve seen, perhaps since the legendary Spanish trio ten years ago. Jorginho, Marco Verratti and Nicolo Barella are all fabulous ball players and, perhaps more importantly, have the energy to make life very difficult for Pedri’s midfield partner Sergio Busquets. Perhaps Luis Enrique will call on someone like Marcos Llorente to try to destabilize Italy, but how Pedri handles this test will be crucial for Spain’s chances of making it to the final.
The Italian midfielder has so far smothered teams in this tournament, keeping the ball moving at a steady pace. It’s not much different from the Spain squad in the old days, but with the pace of Italy’s top three, if you pull away from it, they’ll just take you in the lead. Pedri’s defensive ability is the obvious weak point in his game and it will be important for him to work on that side as well as when his team have the ball.
MADRID, SPAIN – JULY 05: Spaniard Pedri talks to the media following the training session in Spain ahead of the Euro 2020 semi-final match between Italy and Spain in Ciudad del futbol de Las Rozas on July 5, 2021 in Madrid, Spain.
Image credit: Getty Images
It’s terrifying to think that this could be the first of EIGHT international tournaments for Pedri, but I hope it can help put into perspective how special this young man is. In the history of international football, only one player has appeared in five World Cups and five European Championships, the legendary Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to follow suit next summer, but that’s the kind of career potential we’re talking about. By 2038 (which is quite odd to type), Pedri could match that feat.
Of course, it is absolutely ridiculous to make plans for a career that is still in its infancy; Pedri still has growth to do and there is surely more to come. We’ve seen countless players thrive in their teens and then all fall apart in their late 20s.
But Pedri has great examples of longevity at the club he’s at and I hope he continues to shine, even if there is something that looks like a sophomore meltdown next season. Alongside Frenkie De Jong, and possibly even Riqui Puig, there is real potential in this Barcelona midfielder for the foreseeable future. Internationally, he has Rodri and Fabian to help him along the way. He also comes from a good place, players like David Silva and Pedro are also products of the Canary Islands.
In 20 years, Pedri may be a forgotten name, perhaps trying to recreate his former glories in a league far away. However, it is more likely that we will celebrate the career of one of the greatest midfielders. And you are going to be able to say that you were there from the start.
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