Gabriel Pellegrino: Meet Freiburg’s CanMNT talent who models himself after Frenkie de Jong

By FPL360


Exclusive Interview 

There has been an ever-increasing exodus of young Canadian talent to clubs in Europe’s top four leagues. One of those talents is 18-year-old midfielder, Gabriel Pellegrino. Pellegrino left the academy of Major League Soccer side Toronto FC in 2021 to join SC Freiburg, a club with one of the best academies in the Bundesliga. Pellegrino sat down with Transfermarkt to discuss his move to Germany, his playing style, and his ambitions with the national team. 

Pellegrino was only 16 when his agency, Octagon, facilitated the move from Toronto to the Breisgau, the very Southwest of Germany. Freiburg is a young and vibrant City with one of the best universities in the country. Picturesque, it is also home to SC Freiburg, a club that has been playing one of the best seasons in recent history and is famous in Germany for its conveyor-like production of talent. 

It is, therefore, not surprising that the club did everything to integrate Pellegrino quickly when he arrived in 2021. “Freiburg has been very supportive from the very beginning and helped me adjust as quickly as possible,” Pellegrino said. “Freiburg is a very family-oriented club. Ever since I joined, they treated me like I belonged. I feel privileged that they accepted me and invested in working on me and my development.”

Pellegrino from Toronto to Freiburg: Training “much more intense”

Pellegrino admitted that him some time to adjust when he first made the move as a 16-year-old. “But my excitement trumped the thought of me leaving home, and I was grateful for the opportunity that Freiburg offered me,” Pellegrino said. Learning a new language in a completely different culture can be tricky, but performances on the pitch highlighted that Pellegrino quickly adjusted. 

Gabriel Pellegrino in action for Freiburg

Gabriel Pellegrino in action for Freiburg

The step from Canada to Germany was certainly significant. “The training sessions in Freiburg are much more intense, and you have to be switched on at all times,” Pellegrino said when asked about the differences between Toronto FC and Freiburg. It’s a lot more physically demanding over here and a lot more running. It’s also a lot more tactical here.”

What has impressed Pellegrino about his time at Freiburg is the communication between the coaching staff and the players, which he described as very beneficial to develop his game. Known as the Breisgau Brasilianer in Germany, Freiburg is known as a benchmark for tactical trends and the source of the most beautiful football in Germany.  

Canadian talent Pellegrino – can play as a no.6, no.8, and no.10

Speaking to Pellegrino offers some interesting insight into how Freiburg operates as a club. “Coaches always adjust our system based on who we play,” Pellegrino said. “And this teaches us to be much more adaptable. Work ethic is key here. You will not play if you don’t run and give your 100%.”

SC Freiburg U19
The full squad at a glance
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That also helps players like Pellegrino to become more complete. “On the field, it has been great,” Pellegrino said. Numbers underline Pellegrino’s statement. The midfielder has scored two goals and three assists in 33 games for Freiburg’s U17 and U19. Pellegrino’s development this season, in particular, has been impressive. The 18-year-old is a regular on the U19 side featuring in 844 minutes across ten games. The only time the central midfielder missed was because of a yellow card suspension. “I feel like they have developed me into a complete midfielder, and the coaches have really helped me make big steps in my game.”

Pellegrino certainly feels comfortable all over the center of the park. Capable of playing as a no. 6, no. 8, and a no.10, the 18-year-old is already on the way to becoming a complete midfielder. Having that sort of skillset is key for any player wanting to succeed in the Freiburg setup, where head coach Christian Streich values players who can fulfill several roles simultaneously. 

Pellegrino: “I model my game after Frenkie de Jong”

“I model my game after Frenkie de Jong,” Pellegrino said when asked to who he compares himself. “I like to break down the opposition’s press on the dribble by beating a Man or with line-breaking passes,” Pellegrino said. “I am able to pick out key passes leading to scoring opportunities. I like to combine with my teammates with 1-2s. And defensively, I am able to win duels and read the game well to regain possession.” 

Player Comparison

SC Freiburg U19

FC Barcelona

Central Midfield


Central Midfield

Jun 30, 2023

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Full Player Comparison

A glance at Wyscout underlines Pellegrino’s statement. The heatmap shows that the Canadian has been used all over the center of the park, playing as a defensive, central, and as an attacking midfielder. What also stands out is Pellegrino’s ability to play on both the right and left of the field. 

The underlying numbers are also strong, with Pellegrino having completed 81% of his passes, 61.15 of his long passes, and 72.3% of his 6.18 passes to the final third per 90 minutes. But Pellegrino is also defensively sound, winning 56% of his 12.73 duels per 90 minutes. 

Gabriel Pellegrino: Projected to be a good Bundesliga player

What is also encouraging is Pellegrino’s Goalimpact number (here is how it works). Currently, with a Goalimpact of 63.1, the Canadian is projected to reach a Goalimpact of 109, which would rank him in the region of the Bundesliga average (119). Still, only 18, Pellegrino’s current projection could easily supersede his current Goalimpact, making him an interesting prospect not just for Freiburg’s first team but also, in the medium term, for Canada boss John Herdman.

Gabriel Pellegrino: Goalimpact Fact Sheet

Pellegrino also has an Italian passport, but is focused on Canada Soccer, the federation he has already represented at the U20 level on six occasions. “Of course, representing my country at a World Cup is my big dream,” Pellegrino said when asked about Canada being one of the hosts of the 2026 World Cup in North America. 

Davies at the top – The 10 most valuable CanMNT players

Kamal Miller | CF Montréal | Market value: €4m

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Ike Ugbo | ESTAC Troyes | Market value: €4m

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Jayden Nelson | Toronto FC | Market value: €4m

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Alistair Johnston | Celtic | Market value: €6m

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Cyle Larin | Real Valladolid | Market value: €6m

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Ismaël Koné | Watford | Market value: €6m

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Stephen Eustaquio | Porto | Market value: €8m

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Tajon Buchanan | Brugge | Market value: €12m

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Jonathan David | LOSC Lille | Market value: €45m

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Alphonso Davies | Bayern Munich | Market value: €70m

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The teenager identified Jonathan Osorio, Stephen Eustaquio, and Tajon Buchanan as Canadian players he admires. As for Herdman, Pellegrino briefly met the CanMNT coach during an ID camp that took place in Toronto. But with Pellegrino looking like one of the most promising Canadian talents in Europe, there is a chance that he might get to know the Canada boss a bit better soon. 




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