It’s hard to believe that the young, majestic talent that is Pedri only burst onto the European scene one year ago, but the teenager was a completely unknown entity this time last season.
Signed by Barcelona in 2019, but loaned back to Segunda Division outfit Las Palmas for the 2019/20 season, no one really knew what to expect of the precocious midfielder, or whether he’d be ready for the step up in just 12 months time.
Well, those questions have been answered in the most emphatic manner possible. Pedri enjoyed one of the most impressive debut campaigns that top-flight football has ever witnessed, becoming an integral part of Barça’s starting lineup, missing only one La Liga match all campaign.
On top of that, he convinced Spain coach Luis Enrique that he is not only the future of his country but also the present. He started all six of La Furia Roja’s Euro 2020 matches, before suffering penalty shootout heartbreak in the semi-final.
His season didn’t end there, either. Pedri was then called up to Spain’s Olympic squad, once again starring in their run to the final, where they ultimately lost to defending champions Brazil.
It was an incredible year for the 18-year-old, who made over 50 appearances for Barça over the course of the campaign, as well as winning 21 caps for his country in a series of different competitions.
So, let’s take a look back at a year in the life of Pedri, the future of Barcelona, and the indisputable future of Spanish football.
It’s tough to pick out a standout performance for a player who has delivered so consistently, and at such a young age, but Pedri’s most significant display came in a vital 3-2 victory over Athletic Club in January 2021.
The Blaugrana fell behind early on against the stubborn opponents, but Pedri stepped up to the plate to drag his side back into the game. The teenager first showed huge bravery to meet Frenkie de Jong’s cross with a defender onrushing, planting a header into the corner of the net to draw level.
He then showed the brains and intelligence of a man born to play for Barcelona, receiving a pass from Lionel Messi, cutting inside and then nonchalantly back-heeling the ball into the path of the charging Argentine, who dispatched his effort neatly.
It was a moment of linkup play that Barça fans hoped to see for many years – but that opportunity has been ripped away from them.
While he has dazzled for Barcelona, Pedri’s finest hour came in the Euro 2020 semi-final defeat to eventual champions Italy. The midfielder did not deserve to be on the losing side on that night at Wembley, delivering a display which had the entire world drawing comparisons with the great Andres Iniesta.
Pedri dominated the game with his clever passes and lightning footwork, and unbelievably ended the 90 minutes with a 100% pass accuracy. Each pass he attempted in normal time found its man, and he only misplaced two in extra-time, at the end of an incredibly long and difficult evening.
It was an agonising night for Spanish supporters, who suffered the crushing pain that England fans would go on to endure a few days later, but they could be proud of their team for their efforts. Mostly however, they could dream of an exciting future with Pedri at the centre of everything.
“If there is talent, it is necessary to open the way for it. Pedri has taken the opportunity with two hands and has improved. The nature of this player is very good, it seems like he’s been here for much longer. He is a smart player. The most important thing is that mentally he is strong. He is a very humble young boy, who listens, works – he is a player with a big future.” (Ronald Koeman, Barcelona boss)
“Has anyone noticed what an 18-year-old boy named Pedri has done in the Euros? Not even don Andres Iniesta has done it. What Pedri has done in these Euros I have never seen with an 18-year-old, not from anyone in the Euros, World Cups, Olympic games, it’s something away from all logic.” (Luis Enrique, Spain manager)
“There goes a millionaire who doesn’t know it. He’s not going to score 15 a season but everyone will grow around him. He knows exactly what every one of his teammates needs and always makes good decisions.” (Pepe Mel, Las Palmas manager)
“He is a special talent and I think he will be a special talent in the near future.” (Cesc Fabregas)
“Being able to share moments with him is incredible. I always look for him on the pitch because he always knows what he is doing.” (Lionel Messi)
The baton has well and truly been passed to Pedri, now that Messi has departed Camp Nou for the bright lights of Paris. The team has flowed through the Argentine for the past 15 years, and without him, they looked completely lost.
Now is the time for Pedri to become the focal point of this side, and to guide the Blaugrana through the choppy waters of financial mismanagement and bang-average signings. If Barcelona are unable to build a decent team around him, we could see the Spaniard’s early years wasted – much like Messi’s final seasons at the club.
On the international scene, Pedri and his teammates will be hurting from their Euro 2020 exit, but they can take plenty of heart from their performances. He will be the first name on the team sheet for World Cup 2022, when the Furia Roja will aim to repeat the heroics of those that went before them in 2010.
Whatever happens, we can’t wait to watch this magic man in action.