Next Generation – 'One-in-a-million' Pedri is Iniesta's heir at Barca after snow interrupted Real Madrid trial

By Sports Desk April 04, 2020

'Next Generation' is a series focusing on the young players tipped to establish themselves as the elite in the 2020s. 

The snowfall that hit Madrid in February 2018 initially appeared worse than it was, with the seas of white that engulfed fields, pitches and gardens in Spain's capital clearing quicker than one might've expected.

It was enough to cause Real Madrid to cancel their training for the day on February 5, allowing Cristiano Ronaldo an unexpected day off on his birthday – though daily sports publication AS were particularly critical of the club for essentially shutting down with a crucial Champions League tie with Paris Saint-Germain little more than a week away.

As it happened, Madrid went on to claim a third successive European crown, so the issue of a day off almost certainly won't have been raised again. However, it was this snowfall that proved a major disruption to the trial of a kid from the Canary Islands who was "about to sign", according to his father.

Pedri, 15 at the time, did not join Real Madrid. While he may have been shown the cold shoulder amid the snowfall, the midfielder subsequently signed with local side Las Palmas… And then Barcelona came calling.

Made for Barca

A diminutive, but effortlessly silky midfielder, it's little wonder Pedri will end up at Barca. "I have that Barca DNA," he said to EFE in his first major interview after his move was confirmed. "My desire is to resemble [Andres] Iniesta. I have always said he is my idol and he'll remain that until I die."

Pedri's rise has been impressive. In a little over a year, he progressed through the Juvenil A, B and Division de Honor teams in Las Palmas' academy before being introduced into the first-team picture just last year for pre-season.

He's now an undisputed starter at 17 – he initially didn't expect to even reach the Division de Honor team in 2019-20.

Las Palmas had been cautious about showing him off too early, aware that such a talent would immediately attract offers. Instead, they reportedly waited until they had him secured to a professional contract with a €30million release clause and then promised they'd sell him to an interested party straight away.

Barca made their move in September. An initial €5m could become €25m should Pedri meet certain criteria at Camp Nou – and at this point, few would bet against him making a lasting impression in Catalonia.

Once again Real Madrid were left frustrated, with a second attempt to sign Pedri coming too late – not that they would have necessarily been successful otherwise, as the teenager's father is the president of a local Barcelona supporters' club, which his grandfather founded.

"Barca DNA" indeed.

"One in a million"

Pepe Mel was the coach who put his faith in Pedri last year, the experienced tactician clearly stunned by the youngster's abilities.

"Look at this boy, because he's one in a million and he doesn't know it," Mel said at the time. "He will define a new era in Spanish football."

A bold prediction of one so young, but Pedri has taken to first-team football with immense comfort, his performances in La Segunda this season suggesting he's ready for LaLiga straight away and that Mel's foretelling might be on the money.

It had been expected that Pedri would spend another season on loan in the second tier with Las Palmas, or move to Barca's B team if they get promoted to the Segunda.

But now he is attracting loan interest from LaLiga clubs and appears set for a chance to impress first-team coaching staff in pre-season, whenever the coronavirus pandemic permits that period to be.

Shouldering the burden

While he possesses the skillset to play virtually anywhere across the midfield, by his own admission Pedri is most effective in the centre where he can take the game to the opposition, exploit gaps in defences and dazzle with his close dribbling.

Despite his age, Pedri has been a key player for Las Palmas this season, scoring three goals and setting up another four. Six of those goal involvements came in the first 10 matches of the campaign, highlighting there has been a bit of a dip in terms of overall productivity – though he's still proven effective.

Despite missing a chunk of the season to take part in the Under-17 World Cup in October and November, Pedri has played more league matches ( 26 ) than anyone else for Las Palmas this term and his 52 chances created is unmatched among team-mates. Only eight players in the entire league have produced more key passes.

Nineteen Segunda players have attempted more dribbles than Pedri's 83, but only two of them can improve on his 57 per cent completion rate.

And of 1,014 attempted passes, 80 per cent have found a team-mate. While by no means a startling statistic, context is key – many of those with better records on the face of it are central defenders or players operating in less-congested areas of the pitch than Pedri.

What's clear is, Pedri's already operating at a very high level for a 17-year-old. With many of Barca's midfield options aging, seemingly on their way out or unconvincing, an opportunity could present itself for him sooner rather than later. 

Snow may have prevented a move to Madrid two years ago, but Pedri can surely look forward to many frosty receptions in Clasico contests during the 2020s.

Related items

  • Asensio ready for LaLiga run-in after knee injury Asensio ready for LaLiga run-in after knee injury

    Marco Asensio feels "very good" after recovering from a knee injury as he prepares to play his part for Real Madrid in LaLiga's title run-in.

    Spain international Asensio is yet to feature this term after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament and lateral meniscus in his left knee in pre-season.

    The 24-year-old underwent successful surgery in August but has only now returned to training with the campaign paused amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    Asensio, who played 44 times in 2018-19, is delighted to be back.

    "I feel very good," he told Realmadrid TV. "The first week was different when I returned to training, being with my team-mates.

    "My adaptation has been good. The knee is responding well and the truth is that I am physically very well.

    "The wait has been very long. I have worked a lot and, above all, I have had a lot of patience, because seeing your colleagues train every day while being in the physiotherapy room was something that hurt me a lot.

    "I am already with my colleagues in the field and that is the important thing. The wait was worth it."

    Asensio's attentions can now turn to matters on the field, with Madrid two points behind rivals Barcelona in the table with 11 matches to play.

    Los Blancos must also overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit against Manchester City in the last 16 of the Champions League.

    "We really want LaLiga to start and to face those games that decide a title," Asensio said. "We know that they are life-or-death matches.

    "Every game we have to face it to the fullest, and we are going to try to win everything we have left."

  • Coronavirus: LaLiga gets green light for Monday and Friday matches this season Coronavirus: LaLiga gets green light for Monday and Friday matches this season

    The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has told LaLiga it will permit matches being played on Mondays and Fridays to facilitate the 2019-20 season's conclusion.

    The announcement came despite the country's commercial courts ruling in favour of RFEF in their long-running legal battle with LaLiga over Monday and Friday night matches, the federation previously arguing that the scheduling of games on those days required their approval.

    A temporary measure had been put in place this season whereby Friday night matches were allowed, but fixtures on Mondays were not.

    However, RFEF said in a statement that it wishes to "show its good will" by allowing LaLiga to play on both days this season, should 2019-20 resume after the suspension enforced by the coronavirus pandemic.

    It also remined LaLiga that the judge urged any future negotiations regarding the staging of matches on the days in question be conducted "in good faith".

    The statement said: "The RFEF shows its maximum satisfaction for the sentence issued this morning by the commercial judge number two of Madrid, in which it dismisses the demand of LaLiga and declares that the dispute of matches on Friday and Monday requires the approval of the RFEF.

    "The RFEF has always been convinced that it was assisted by reason in this matter.

    "Furthermore, the RFEF wants to clearly show its good will, facilitating the season to end smoothly.

    "Therefore, it offers LaLiga - without linking it to the start of negotiations - that matches can be played on Friday and Monday, which are included in the calendar, from the resumption of competition and until the end of this season, without requesting anything in exchange for this month and a half."

  • Coronavirus: Aulas predicts financial difficulties for 'many French clubs' Coronavirus: Aulas predicts financial difficulties for 'many French clubs'

    Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has warned of "a real problem" looming for many French clubs if the decision to cancel the 2019-20 season is not overturned.

    Aulas has been vocal in his opposition to voiding the remainder of the Ligue 1 campaign, which left Lyon in seventh place in the table and without a spot in next season's Champions League.

    Having seen the Bundesliga resume the 2019-20 season and with the Premier League, LaLiga, and Serie A potentially following suit, Aulas said French football could find itself being left behind.

    Defending his decision to appeal against the cancellation of the season by writing to the French prime minister and sports minister, Aulas told Franceinfo: "We see an abnormal difference in competitiveness between European countries.

    "[There will be] between 800 and 900 million euro losses as of June 30 for French football.

    "As we were unable to show our good faith as we would have wanted, or show that it made economic sense and the best thing for Europe to finish all our games, so unfortunately we've had to seek an alternative in the interest of those immediately concerned and in the general interest."

    Lyon finished third in 2018-19 and were still in the Champions League and the Coupe de la Ligue when football in France was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    Aulas indicated the financial impact of the season's termination would not cause Lyon serious problems, but he said French clubs would lose out in the transfer market.

    "Obviously, transfers will be put on hold. It's looking like we will have to stop the championship so players will not be seen," he said.

    "Clubs which can eventually invest, well clubs abroad have had their season put back and they will finish it later. This is all going to cause a real problem for French clubs – a loss of several hundred million euros.

    "Transfers agreed a few years ago also may not be honoured, so it's going to cause problems. Many French clubs will be in financial difficulties."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.