WHY YOU NEED TO JUMP ON THE PEDRI HYPETRAIN
SRINIVAS SADHANAND | 6th July 2021
“It’s an honor to be compared to Andres Iniesta. But I have to be Pedri.”
The kid’s right. And yes, at 18 years of age, Pedri is just a kid. But the Iniesta comparisons, much like the Romelu Lukaku and Didier Drogba parallels do a lot more than just adding insurmountable amounts of pressure on an 18-year old still trying to make his way up the footballing ladder.
It undermines Pedri’s individuality and unintentionally questions his very potential to pen his own legacy. Nor did it do justice to Lukaku who has gone on to break barriers his own way and is one of the most devastating No.9’s in the world like Drogba was, but in his own way.
It harks back to football’s unhealthy obsession with nostalgia and pining for clones from the past than pioneers of the present.
And if you’ve had the pleasure of catching much more than a glimpse of the understated, yet masterful midfielder at Euro 2020, you know better than anyone that even the sky falls short of being the limit for Pedri.
As Spain touch base in London with a semi-final against the immaculate Italy beckoning, the same 18-year old is their knight in shining armor. How that isn’t a sweeping statement when the Spanish are blessed with the likes of Sergio Busquets, Thiago and Koke to namedrop the absolute legends they have at their disposal is a sweeping statement.
And you’d assume that in La Roja’s midfield trio of Busquets, Koke and Pedri, the latter is assigned to keep things tidy while his partners do the dirty work. Far from it, actually.
Amongst the 622 players who have featured at the Euros, Pedri has covered the most distance (61.5 km). For context, Czech Republic’s Tomas Soucek, classed as ‘tough as nails’ and a bit of a ‘hardman’ is 2nd by a sizeable 3.7 km less.
Yes, Pedri’s got the face for a boyband but he’s sticking to his day job of outrunning Forrest Gump at the minute. Just saying, being presumptuous is never the answer.
And this isn’t new to the Barcelona marvel who has even dwarfed someone like Nicolo Barella, one of Europe’s most sought-after box-to-box midfielders statistically this season, averaging 25.09 pressures and 3.19 tackles and interceptions to the Italian’s 17.54 and 2.88 respectively.
Barella’s beastly brilliance isn’t meant to be lowballed here but Pedri’s penchant for being a defensive behemoth, despite featuring in 64 games this season can be one of his tremendous traits that can escape one’s sight.
Especially when you catch yourself grinning at him making passes prettier than your favorite supermodel. Or him dropping a shoulder and jigging past a tackler so easily, it borders on arrogance.
But his prodigy isn’t simply restricted to the outrageous. Pedri doesn’t have to score a Paul Pogba special from outside the box or a classic Luka Modric trivela to showcase his wizardry.
Instead, the genius lies in subtlety.
Qué malo es Pedri, qué Eurocopa más horrible está haciendo… pic.twitter.com/eyGps1YgoX
— Manu Heredia (@ManuHeredia21) July 2, 2021
This isn’t a Hollywood pass by any stretch of the imagination. But you’d think that if you merely assessed the pass. Pedri’s footballing brain is in motion here as he makes a short burst, draws 2 Swiss pressers, creates the space for an unmarked Koke and plays a swift pass first-time to break the lines.
Nothing analyzed in isolation screams genius but the entire package certainly does.
And coming into his first major tournament, becoming Spain’s youngest player to ever start at the Euros as well as breaking the all-time records of being the youngest player to start in a knockout tie as well as a quarter-final, Pedri’s not just settled in, he’s been La Roja’s best player. Scratch that actually.
The gem has been one of the Players of the Tournament, alongside the likes of Paul Pogba, Raheem Sterling and Jorginho to name a few. In a side that had taken 1 point and scoring just a single goal from 2 games, a defence that can look class one minute and crumble anytime soon, a midfield that lacked ingenuity and an attack firing blanks, Pedri has been that one constant who has never ceased to be brilliant.
Dragging his team to a semi-final, Barcelona’s diamond is more refined than rough and is a captain through sheer performance, armband or no armband.
Euro 2020 is a transition tournament for the Euro 2012 champions and it’s the future that have to lead the wave going forward and Spain’s No. 26 is already doing that.
Only if the Spanish didn’t take tips from the “Brighton School of Finishing”, the style and substance in abundance would have been backed by a place in the assist charts for Pedri. And it’s backed by evidence as the young buck has created just 2 chances lesser than the tournament’s highest chance creator in Jordi Alba (11).
The Pedri-Alba double-act is glorious but at the same time, Alvaro Morata and Gerard Moreno have scored a combined 2 goals from an xG of 7.40 which may point to why the duo made in Barcelona is yet to get the shine it deserves.
📊 Most successful final third passes in #EURO2020:
— Reshad Rahman (@ReshadRahman_) July 5, 2021
But all of the hypotheticals can be left behind when Pedri walks out of that Wembley tunnel to play the biggest game of his life. And regardless of whatever side of history he ends up on, we may just be witnessing greatness in the making.
The labelling of said ‘it’ is boring and unnecessary when you could just sit back and appreciate the fresh prince of Spain do what he does best.