As we look into the future of football, we cast a spotlight on the best young players who could dominate the game in the years to come. Join us as we check out the future stars of tomorrow - Pedri might very well be the next big thing.
Given his prodigious skills and instant impact, one could be forgiven for thinking that young Pedro González López is a product of Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy. However, the teenage starlet was actually signed from UD Las Palmas back in 2020.
Once thought too small and skinny to excel at the top level, Pedri trialed for Real Madrid at age 15, but ultimately signed his first professional deal with hometown club Las Palmas in 2020.
The Spanish midfielder made his pro debut in Gran Canaria at 16 years of age, just over a month later. His first goal soon followed the very next month, as he became Las Palmas’ youngest goalscorer ever.
At this time, Barcelona were on the lookout for successors for their legendary midfield triumvirate of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets, and quickly moved to snap up the youngster the very next season for an initial fee of €5million.
Pedri arrived at Barcelona without great fanfare, at one of the most troubled times in the club’s history. The club had just endured a trophyless season and the new season of Spanish top flight football was starting late due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The young midfielder hit the ground running though, as coach Ronald Koeman showed extraordinary faith in his fledgling abilities. Pedri played more league games than anyone else in the squad, featuring in every match except the final day of the season when there was nothing left to play for.
Barcelona would finish a distant third in the table, but Pedri provided a welcome spark in midfield, dovetailing well with club legend Lionel Messi in his final season at Camp Nou as Koeman moved the youngster from his initial position on the wing to a more central role.
Records would tumble too in Pedri’s debut season for Barcelona, as he became the youngest player to score and assist in the same La Liga match at just 18 years and 42 days.
International recognition swiftly followed as a first callup to the Spanish national team in March 2021 was followed by a starring role at Euro 2020, playing all but one minute of Spain’s six matches.
He became the youngest player to represent Spain at the European Championships and was voted Young Player of the Tournament.
Barcelona were understandably eager to tie their new star down and Pedri signed a new contract with a record €1 billion release clause in October 2021, just a month before he was awarded the prestigious Golden Boy award.
In a nutshell
What makes a perfect Barcelona midfielder? It is a question that might be hard to answer in just a few sentences, but Pedri possesses many innate qualities that have made him such an integral part of both Luis Enrique and Xavi’s Spanish and Barcelona teams of late.
Despite not being the speediest player around, the youngster is able to carry the ball through tight spaces at speed and change directions on a dime to evade would-be tacklers. This allows him to break opposition lines with devastating effect, especially for a team like Barcelona who often encounter opponents with low defensive blocks.
An incredibly intelligent and technically gifted player, Pedri’s accurate passing and ability to find space on and off the ball make him an absolute joy to watch. He constantly demands the ball and is also skilled at changing the tempo of his team’s play when required.
“I think Pedri is a blessing for Spanish football.” - Pepe Mel, Las Palmas coach
“The player who’s surprised me the most is Pedri. I knew Barça had signed him from Las Palmas and I had seen tapes of him, but I don’t think anyone expected the rapid speed of his development since joining. Playing and training with the best players at Barça aged just 17; delivering such high levels of performance.” - Ronald Koeman, then-Barcelona coach
“He reminds me a lot of Andres Iniesta. If we’re talking about pure talent, Pedri is the best [prospect] in the world. He is a wonderful player. I haven’t seen many talents like him.” - Xavi, current Barcelona coach