Exactly a year ago, a small, slender 17-year-old midfielder was trying to prevent Las Palmas, who were hovering six points above the relegation zone, from dropping into Spain’s third division.
The name of the Canary Islands-born kid toiling away for the islanders was Pedro González López. You know him as Pedri.
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Despite the fact he’s still only 18, and still completing his breakthrough season in senior football, that same boyish gem is one of only three of Luis Enrique’s squad – Unai Simón and Aymeric Laporte the others – to have played all 390 minutes of Spain’s UEFA EURO 2020 campaign so far.
Pedri is an astounding player.
Talented teenage tyros are not a new phenomenon. Usually, however, their emergence will be down to something remarkable such as power or pace – boys in age, men in stature. Not Pedri. He plays like an experienced, decorated senior pro.
It should be implausible for anybody so young, so inexperienced and so physically slight to possess such supernatural game intelligence, peripheral vision and first touch, not to mention the innate bravery to want the ball all the time.
And just in case you think I’m being even the slightest bit excitable about how special this little phenomenon is, note this: Pedri began the tournament as the youngest Spanish player to appear at a EURO and briefly became the youngest from anywhere to start a knockout game. That hasn’t stopped him completing more passes in the final third (114) than any other player at the finals.
His stats, however, should be the last things to seduce you. Just watch him.
There’s a gentle but perceptible crouch over the ball to Pedri’s stature; his arms will be slightly extended to his side to add equilibrium to his natural balance, socks rolled down as far as rules will allow – he’s a throwback to 1960s and 70s ball players.
He also gives the impression of having eyes in the back of his head. Either that, or he’s played a given match in a previous life – how else to explain the anticipation he shows time and again?
For Barça watchers, the immediacy of Lionel Messi’s absolute adoration of his new team-mate was the ultimate litmus test that something epoch-making was about to happen. Messi only parts with the ball to special footballers – but he and Pedri appear to think with the same brain.
For a shorthand guide to Pedri’s supreme touch, vision and preternatural vision, just take a look at his role in Spain’s second, third and fourth goals against Slovakia. Gorgeous, sumptuous, delightful – pick your adjective.
This is a generational talent, not only bound for super-stardom but someone who’ll make anyone who loves football swoon and sigh with pleasure for years to come. All hail Pedri.