It’s fair to say things haven’t quite gone to plan so far for Pietro Pellegri since making a €25m switch from Genoa to Monaco in January 2018.
Unfortunately for Pellegri, who was labelled the ‘new Lionel Messi’ by Genoa’s owner back in 2015, he has become more recognised in recent times for his abilities on Football Manager rather than his on-field performances, as he’s majorly struggled with injuries.
Due to his injury record, it would be easy to forget that Pellegri has only recently celebrated his 19th birthday and has time on his side. Despite his lack of game time, it recently emerged that Manchester United are once again keen on signing him – having tracked the striker since he was 16-years-old.
With United reigniting their interest in the young Italian, 90min have decided to delve into his background and tell you all you need to know.
It actually wasn’t long ago when Pellegri first announced himself to the world as a professional footballer, making his debut aged just 15 years and 280 days.
However, prior to even joining Genoa, he and his father were invited by Man Utd to visit the club’s training facilities and watch the Red Devils take on Chelsea at Old Trafford – but they opted against a move, instead believing Genoa was the best place for Pietro. United spotted his talent early on, but they were aren’t able to make the move happen.
On Pellegri’s full debut for Genoa against Roma, he cooly slotted home to become the first player born in 2001 to score in Serie A. The then-16-year-old scored with his first touch of the game after just three minutes to immediately steal the headlines away from the departing Francesco Totti. Pellegri was hugely impressive and his confidence was immediately clear for all to see.
Pellegri would go on to make ten appearances for Genoa’s senior side, scoring three times, before sealing a move away in January 2018. A whole host of European giants were looking to bring in the young talent (including United), but it was Monaco who secured his services for around €25m.
Sure, it was a lot of money for a 16-year-old, but Genoa were actually originally looking for around €40m as they were aware of his abilities. Pellegri wasn’t just any young player, clubs from around Europe recognised the talent he possessed.
However, since making the switch, Pellegri has struggled with injuries and, as a result, he has made just six appearances for his club. Moreover, the Italian did not feature at all in the 2019/20 campaign. Nonetheless, he became the first player born in the 21st century to score in Ligue 1 when he found the net against against Bordeaux.
That remains the only goal he’s scored for Monaco up to this point, however.
During Pellegri’s time playing for the youth teams at Genoa, he occupied the centre forward role in a number of different formations. The Under-19 side would use a 4-4-2, 3-5-2 and 3-4-3 formation as well as the 4-3-3 set up on occasion. Despite the differing formations and approaches, Pellegri was the recognised centre forward when playing.
During this time, Pellegri was most threatening when playing in the 4-4-2 formation, linking up well with his fellow striker. He would be able to hold the ball up well before making his runs and finding space to fire a shot towards goal.
When Pellegri started against Roma on his full debut for Genoa, he operated as a supporting striker and he once again thrived. However, Pellegri can also operate as the lone striker, grabbing two goals against Lazio back in 2017 while operating up front by himself in a 3-4-2-1 formation.
As for his time at Monaco, his performances have been so rare that the systems he’s been used in there don’t carry much significance.
Pellegri is capable of shining either as a lone striker or alongside a supporting attacker, but the crucial thing for the Italian is service. He requires runners off the ball and service from wingers and full-backs to allow him to be most dangerous.
At just 19 years of age, Pellegri has time on his side. And despite being just a teenager, he is already fairly well built and physically imposing. Standing 6ft 2in, Pellegri is strong in the air, powerfully rising to either bring in long passes or knock the ball down with his head. Equally, the youngster can be an asset to his side in both boxes because of his aerial ability.
It’s therefore no surprise to hear that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is his idol.
Moreover, Pellegri has shown during his short career to date that he’s a player that can thrive on the biggest stages. Composed in front of goal and able to link up play, Pellegri has all the attributes to become a world class striker.
Not only that, Pellegri uses his understanding and awareness to make runs off the ball, showing his pace to beat a man or simply opening up the space for other players to attack.
Pellegri is actually a very complete footballer already. But it’s his injury record which, of course, is the major concern.
When it recently emerged that Man Utd are keen on signing him, a number of fans labelled it a surprise. But not because he isn’t good enough and could potentially be good enough to play for the Red Devils one day, instead this is a player that has managed just six appearances in over two years. Indeed, the last time Pellegri made an appearance for Monaco came back in September 2018.
Most notably, it is his groin and his hamstring that have proven to be the real problem areas – and this is a major concern.
Now 19, it is easy to look back in hindsight and perhaps argue that Pellegri was pushed too hard and treated too much like a fully developed adult when making a name for himself. However, if the appropriate measures are taken, Pellegri can overcome these issues and fulfil his potential.
In terms of his abilities on the pitch, Pellegri is not the most versatile striker. He is able to operate on the wing, but he is predominantly an attacker. In comparison, United’s young forward Mason Greenwood is capable of playing anywhere across the frontline comfortably.
However, although he doesn’t play in a number of positions, Pellegri is capable of adjusting his game based on the system used.
In the recent reports regarding United’s interest in Pellegri, there is no mention of a fee. Pellegri’s mammoth transfer fee as a 16-year-old speaks volumes about the potential Monaco saw in him, as well as his overall ability at the time.
Now 19, Pellegri is still young and has more than enough time to overcome his injury problems and blossom into a top level player. As a result, should Monaco allow him to leave, they would likely demand an interested party forks out a similar sum to the amount they paid for his services back in 2018.
However, due to the coronavirus, this may not be the case. The financial impact of the crisis shouldn’t be ignored and if United – or another club – were to come in with a reasonable proposal, Monaco may be inclined to sell. They have struggled to keep Pellegri fit and it could prove to be most beneficial for both the player and the club if they were to part ways.
It would, of course, be a risk for a club to splash the cash on an injury prone striker – but it could prove to be an outstanding piece of business if they are able to help Pellegri overcome his struggles.