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The story of the perfect partner for Messi: who is Pedri and why the connection between the two is the key to success for Barcelona

Leo Messi has found in Pedri his best partner for a turbulent season at FC Barcelona (Photo: EFE / Luis Tejido)
Leo Messi has found in Pedri his best partner for a turbulent season at FC Barcelona (Photo: EFE / Luis Tejido)

There are those who argue that in the midst of the chaos the best opportunities emerge and have been one of the signings of the FC Barcelona in the last transfer window, with the entity collapsing after 2-8 against Bayern Munich in Lisbon and with Lionel Messi On the verge of goodbye, it was a colossal challenge for any footballer. Even more so when, when starting your cycle, Ronald Koeman stripped his captain of several of his locker room slopes, such as Arturo Vidal, Ivan Rakitic and Luis Suárez, one of the best partners that the Argentine star has had in his entire career and his great friend off the pitch. Among the new faces there were no great stars. Neither Miralem Pjanić -With a bittersweet arrival for causing the goodbye of Arthur– It was considered a transcendental reinforcement among a handful of young talents, including a teenager with no career in the elite but with amazing qualities: Pedro Gonzalez Lopez, better known as Pedri.

He did not come from a prestigious team like Sergiño Dest (Ajax) hadn’t had the brush of Trincão (SC Braga) o Matheus Fernandes (Palmeiras). His transfer was even agreed in September 2019, when he was still 16 and a few minutes in Second with the first team of The palms. It was taken as a long-term bet and no one could predict that it would become the perfect partner overnight. Leo messi: two of his last three goals were with assists from this young man who always dreamed of dressing up as a culé.

That illusion of Pedri comes from his days Tegueste, a town on the island of Tenerife, where from a very young age he showed sensational football skills. “When I had 9 years, it reminded me of Iniesta for the way they play. It made everything very simple. I was not looking to throw pipes or avoid rivals, just to do what is simple and right. It was just different: the way he watched football, understood the game, found spaces that no one else could find, the maturity he had compared to others. And not only how he played with the ball, but the respect he showed to his teammates, to rival players, to coaches, to everyone, “he said. Ruben Delgado, his first coach, in dialogue with The Athletic.

It was necessary to compare him with a culé figure because he and all his family are very fans of Barça. Pedri grew up enjoying the team of Pep Guardiola in the Barça club founded by his grandfather in his small hometown, located northwest of the largest of the Canary Islands. Simultaneously to those successes guardiolistas, he stood out playing with older boys in Laguna Youth –A club in San Cristóbal de La Laguna, 10 minutes from his home– and also sporadically in a representative team of the region. It was beginning to be on the radar of the scouts of famous entities such as Deportivo La Coruña, Villarreal, Atlético and Real Madrid. Even the archrival of the club of his loves took him in February 2018 to do a test in the capital of Spain, but there was a lot of snow and he could barely do a couple of training sessions in which he did not dazzle.

Months later, the possibility arose to move to Yellow house, the youth academy of the Las Palmas Sports Union. It was there that, after only a year as a youth, Pepper Mel raised him to the first team and made him a professional footballer: the 18 Aug 2019, to their 16 years, played as a starter against SD Huesca on the first day of the Second Division championship. It was the starting point for a Pedri that shone to the fullest playing of leftmost or link in a 4-2-3-1, with a leading role despite his young age. No one had more minutes (2,836) than him in Las Palmas in that 2019/20 season. He played 36 of the 42 games of the tournament, being a starter in 34. Of his six absences, five were for being called up to the youth teams of Spain – four of them for going to the Mundial Sub-17– and one for accumulation of yellow.

A play by Pedri in Las Palmas before arriving at Barça.

He finished that tournament with four goals and seven assists that convinced the leaders of the Barcelona that they had made the right decision to fish it. When some clubs started asking about him, Toni Otero, technical secretary of The palms, called directly to Jose Mari Bakero to offer it. And just by seeing it 10 minutes, the head of professional training football blaugrana did not hesitate to sign him. What nobody ever thought is that he would earn a place so quickly in the first team. Less when only four months ago Koeman He said publicly that he could go on loan because he was too young. However, the level of Pedri in training and the first friendlies they made him reconsider.

He entered the calls immediately and even had minutes entering from the bench in the first three LaLiga games. Then everything happened very quickly: his first title was before Getafe and 72 hours later he made a goal on his UEFA Champions League debut. At the same time, he drew attention for his habits off the lawn. Before the 5-1 about him Ferencvaros He arrived at the stadium with his clothes in a nylon bag and then took a taxi, because being a minor he did not have a driver’s license. He has not lost his simplicity, polite treatment, humility and respect for his days in Tegueste, despite the fact that now he is a figure who lives in Barcelona.

As well as maintaining his shyness and good manners off the field, he also has not needed to change his style of play to fit into the game. Barça. He has not tried to impress his new manager or his teammates with unnecessary displays of skill, he has simply been functional to the team and naturally he became the perfect partner for Leo Messi. While the Dutch strategist is still looking for the right structure – he has played mostly 4-2-3-1, but also 4-3-3 And till 3-4-2-1– for your cycle, Pedri It has been presented to him as one of the few certainties: he is a footballer capable of making sense of the style of play he wants, that hinge man connecting with the rest and above all it has a special synergy with The flea. Whether playing behind him, to his left or mostly in front, he always appears well outlined to receive, turn, touch and pass. Play easy, run fast, don’t abuse driving and solve with unbeatable criteria. He speaks the same language that is learned in The farmhouse without having been raised in that school, so he joined the team with absolute spontaneity from the moment he stepped on the pitch.

Pedri offers Lionel Messi what no one else at Barça: possibilities to progress in the internal game (Photo: REUTERS)
Pedri offers Lionel Messi what no one else at Barça: possibilities to progress in the internal game (Photo: REUTERS)

Messi and Pedri they have shared 1,168 minutes on the pitch so far this season between LaLiga and Champions. They have combined 207 times: Leo passed the ball to him 101 times and the young Canarian handed the ball to the ’10’ 106 times. At a quantitative level, the Argentine star connects more with Busquets, De Jong or Jordi Alba. The former serve as support, while Jordi unloads and is presented as a surprise factor on the left. But qualitatively, none of them collaborate so much in the inner game. With Pedri, Messi got what they couldn’t give Coutinho, Griezmann and Dembélé: expeditious connections, fresh air in congestion and progression in the medullary area. That this boy is a natural creative and is trained to play between the lines, has perfectly fitted with a Messi he has lagged positionally over the years without a company to influence away from the rival area. Finally has a ally to build a wall, whatever the pitch, because he found a footballer who keeps up with him, guesses his intentions and helps him gain meters.

The chemistry between the two has been growing game by game since Pedri won the title against Real society -Having already scored his first goal in LaLiga, in the 5-2 game against Betis- and has reached its peak in recent weeks with two masterful taco assists: the first before Valladolid for what Messi get the goal he needed to surpass Pelé as the highest scorer in history in the same club, and then against the Athletic Bilbao to get the comeback on track. A 2-3 in which Pedri opened the scoreboard and also brought out his other faculties, because he also knows unbalance in one on one it is included steals balls.

Injuries to Ansu fati and Philippe Coutinho have given to Pedri a place that would have taken a little longer to get without these casualties, but the position is definitely yours: missed only 14 of the last 450 minutes in LaLiga. Before the trip to San Mamés, before SD Huesca, it was seen that Koeman he even prefers to put it before Griezmann. The French attacker did not show his best version of center forward, a position in which he gains followers Martin Braithwaite, and the Dutch coach prefers it on the bench rather than using it on the wings or removing the Messi’s new partner of your scheme.

A Pedri He still has a long way to go, he just broke the shell of his sporting career. Its market value is currently 50 million euros, according to the specialized portal Transfermarkt. Is what they cost Eden Hazard O Phillipe Coutinho, and 10 times what the Barcelona paid the UD Las Palmas. Its price is symbolic, nobody in the Camp Nou thinks of it as a transferable player. Less after seeing him get along wonderfully with a Lionel Messi that he feels wrapped up again after being orphaned by Xavi, Iniesta, Dani Alves, Neymar and finally from Luis Suarez. In the most chaotic context of all, with less than six months after his contract expires and even now having the possibility to negotiate with another club, he has reason to enjoy the present and yearn for new successes: a talented young man seized his opportunity and became your perfect partner.

Thanks to Opta for statistical data. More in@Optajavier

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About the author

Kim Diaz

Kim recently joined the team, and she writes for the Headline column of the website. She has done major in English, and a having a diploma in Journalism.

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