GMS Wonderkid Of The Week: Barcelona's rising star Pedri

PedriMessi

This article forms part of GiveMeSport’s Wonderkid of the Week feature, bringing you the latest updates on some of the world's most exciting prospects. Join us every week to get the lowdown on the next generation.

Barcelona’s summer was chaotic to say the least.

Following the 8-2 loss at the hands of Bayern Munich that saw them crash out of the Champions League in the most embarrassing of fashions, Ronald Koeman was drafted in to replace Quique Setien just as Lionel Messi was waging war on the club’s board as he attempted to leave.

So then, strangely enough for a club of such magnitude, some of their signings were largely overlooked by those outside Spain.

One of those was Pedri.

Brought to the Camp Nou after impressing with Las Palmas for around €5m, the 17-year-old attacker has been thrust into the first-team under Koeman and subsequently featured in every game.

Rejected by second division Tenerife for being too small, he hit headlines recently after being spotted carrying a plastic bag rather than the ridiculously expensive wash bags we’re so used to seeing before getting a local taxi back to his home from the Camp Nou.

In order to build a better profile of the player, GiveMeSport’s Jonathan Gorrie spoke to Axel of Barcelona fan page, @barcacentre.

Has it been a shock just how involved Pedri has been in the starting XI following his summer move? 

While it was clear to everyone that Barcelona were in need of a reboot after the defeat in Lisbon, outsiders may be surprised to know that Pedri has already amassed 211 minutes of La Liga action already this season.

However, Axel has spoken of the clean slate Koeman has offered. Be it for new players altogether or those already at the club ‘every player started from scratch’ under the former Everton coach.

So, building off of that basis, Pedri looks to have impressed.

While it was unclear ‘if he would stay with the first-team or join a team on loan’, the teenager ‘impressed’ during the early stages of the new era and ultimately convinced the Blaugrana to keep him.

‘Something that Koeman always says is that age doesn't matter to him, performances do’, adds Axel.

Indeed, while this iteration of Barcelona is far from the best, he does appear to be sticking to one of the club’s core principles.

Is Pedri the latest attacker who presses to create space for Lionel Messi like Eto'o, Henry, Neymar and even Suarez? 

‘The more Pedri touches the ball, the more he can deliver’ proved a ringing endorsement of the teenager born on the Canary Islands. Having completed both of his attempted dribbles in La Liga this season, that does appear to be the case.

Furthermore, his tally 0.39 through passes completed per 90 minutes is behind only Messi, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Frenkie de Jong in terms of regular starters and higher than even Antoine Griezmann’s.

As we can see from the first graphic below, Pedri largely operates outside of both boxes but does press large areas centrally.

Pedri

According to FBRef, he has attempted the third-highest defensive pressures in the Barcelona side this season (52) and the second most in the middle third, at least trying to take the pressure off of  Busquets.

Certainly, Axel’s assertion that he ‘suits the Iniesta role’ rings true too when looking at the second graphic (albeit he’s focusing on the right this season rather than the left) with Pedri veering to that particular channel from his attacking midfield berth.

Largely picking the ball up centrally, his most frequent passing action is to feed a runner on the right-hand side, as you can see below.

Of course, Barca's legendary midfielder in Iniesta would largely drift to the left but there's a similarity apparent, at least in theory. 

Pedri

How do Barcelona fans feel about the future of Pedri? Even in a potentially post-Messi era, could he be someone Barcelona build around?

''The future of Pedri looks amazing.

''At the age of 17, he is a really mature player. That's quite unique.

''For example, when we look at his decision making we immediately notice how calm and composed he is.''

Given just how frequently he's been involved this season, his future really does look exciting. While it's tempting to think Barcelona are currently in somewhat of a crisis, this is still a 17-year-old player regularly featuring for one of the world's biggest teams. 

Axel then says something poignant about Pedri's potential. 

''All Barça fans have high hopes for Pedri, but we have to be careful and just enjoy his magic without putting too much pressure on him.''

That is key. Though the Blaugrana are in what appears to be a transitional phase ahead of electing a new president in the coming months, it is one of the most notoriously demanding fan bases in the world and every player to pull on the famous kit is held to the highest of standards. 

At 17, it's important to remember he is still developing and is near enough a decade away from what is generally considered to be an outfield player's peak. 

What has Pedri said himself?

The quote above comes from an interview the midfielder did ahead of El Clasico with SPORT and speaks of someone with the natural talent many of us dream we were gifted with and one that sees him play for Barcelona before he reaches even 18 years of age. 

'Quite a funny quote', says Axel 'and we truly believe he does'.

A hugely exciting prospect and certainly one to keep an eye on over the coming years for both club and country, Pedri's start to life with the Catalan giants has been a fairly remarkable one considering he was playing in the second division only last season.

'He will likely become one of the key pillars at Barça in a couple of years time', Axel adds. 

The future is certainly bright.

@barcacentre is a dedicated Barcelona aggregator translating relevant news and providing updates to its sizeable list of followers. You can follow them here

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