So far this season Pedro González López, that’s Pedri to you, has made 17 appearances in his first season at Barcelona. At the same age, Lionel Messi made nine appearances under Frank Rijkaard. Under Rijkaard, Messi always looked special, but he was doing it all on the wing as a teenager. Pedri meanwhile, has already played as a LW, RW, CAM, CM, and CDM. Pedri will never be Messi, they are entirely different players after all, but hopefully that lazy comparison is enough to remind Culers that this kid is something special.
There are reasons for Culers to argue and gush over so many other players in the squad not named Pedri. Ansu Fati is La Masia trained and prior to his injury was setting a new record for “youngest to” in almost every match. Riqui Puig is also La Masia trained and his playing time has been the subject of much controversy. Lionel Messi is always worth talking about. Antoine Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho can always be discussed through the expectations of their production in regards to their price tags, and their inability to reach those lofty standards. Ousmane Dembélé is constantly fighting injuries and a similar price tag argument. Frenkie de Jong is sparking debate over his best position, plus the lofty expectations also attached to his price tag. Sergiño Dest is a trailblazing American and the most exciting right-back Barcelona has had since Dani Alves. Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Piqué, and Sergi Roberto are all part of an aging core that are having their long-term futures questioned.
Pedri wasn’t La Masia trained. He cost five million euros which could rise to as much as 25 million, but that still looks like a bargain with the early returns. He can play in multiple positions, so he isn’t being accused of getting in the way of anybody else’s playing time. Since he doesn’t have a locked-in position, there are few arguments about where he needs to be playing in an XI. Yet, few could contend that he hasn’t earned a spot in the best XI that Koeman can put out.
Teenagers with his build and skillset are often played on the wing, due in part to their youthful exuberance and willingness to go at outside backs. More importantly, what they still need to learn on the defensive side of the ball is enough for managers to not take chances with them in the middle of the field. It’s where is primarily played for Las Palmas in the second division last season. Yet, Pedri is proving to be an exception to this rule in Catalonia.
The 18-year-old from the Canary Islands has shown an ability to put his body in the right positions behind defenders and the ball and a desire to mix it up with much larger men. His control on the wings has drawn some comparisons to Pedro (also from the Canary Islands), but the real comparison is Andres Iniesta. When we utter the names Messi, Iniesta and Xavi, it assigns a standard to a young player that he’ll never reach. But Pedri has deserved the praise that at least his game is Iniesta-esque. He is a forward-thinking diminutive playmaker that uses his brain and his body as defensive assets.
The name Carles Puyol was hitting Culers’ lips against Real Sociedad after Pedri catapulted himself into the goal post while making a goal-saving tackle. Like Puyol, Pedri arrived at the club at 17 (Puyol didn’t start with the first team) and has plenty of time to show his love for the crest. It’s a teenager’s fearlessness that could have gotten him hurt, but in one play Pedri backed up that his heart is equal to his brain and his feet. If he improves on a linear trajectory, he won’t need to be the “next ___”, but he’ll be Pedri.
He could have been Pedri at Real Madrid, but they reportedly didn’t want him. Better for Barcelona. He only has two goals this season, one in La Liga and one in the Champions League, but there isn’t the same worry as there is for Trincão. Pedri has faded in and out of some matches and has looked in need of a break at times, but the talent is always on the verge of coming out. For Trincão the worry is that it may never happen. For Pedri, there is no doubt that it’s there and the goals and assists are simply on their way.
Dan Hilton is an American journalist, broadcaster, and current Editor-in-Chief of BarcaBlog. Extensive work as a play-by-play broadcaster, producer behind the scenes, and quite average player in his younger years has given him a well-rounded and informative perspective on the sport. Alongside BarcaBlog founder Francesc, Dan started The Barcelona Podcast in 2017