The youngster arrived at the Camp Nou from UD Las Palmas in 2020 without great fanfare but dazzled for FC Barcelona in his first season and into his second. Here’s all you need to know about perhaps the brightest young talent in football right now.
Pedro González López, more commonly known as ‘Pedri,’ arrived in Barcelona the summer of 2020 from LaLiga SmartBank side UD Las Palmas and hit the ground running. Touted as a prodigious talent but still perhaps a little young to be a breakout star on arrival, nobody in the Catalan club’s squad played in more LaLiga Santander matches than the 18-year-old Canary Islander last season. He played 37 matches for his new club, starting 28 of them. The only match he didn’t feature in was on the final day of the season against Eibar, when Koeman decided there was nothing to play for.
Remarkably, his then colleague Lionel Messi placed a lot of confidence in Pedri too, with the Argentine giving the teenager his seal of approval by consistently feeding him the ball. Everybody around the club felt that special connection very quickly. But he didn’t connect just with the former Blaugrana number ‘10’. In his first season, Pedri performed whenever he stepped out on the pitch, completing 1,485 passes as well as scoring three goals and assisting another three. Away at Athletic Club, Pedri became the youngest player to score and assist in the same LaLiga Santander match, doing so aged just 18 and 42 days.
His performances over the last year and a half have seen his profile sky-rocket, so much so that he’s become the latest in a long line of prodigious talents to win the Golden Boy award, recognising the best player under 21 in world football. He follows in the footsteps of the likes of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Wayne Rooney, Cesc Fabregas, Joao Felix, Paul Pogba and Erling Haaland.
There’s no doubt that Pedri can lead Barça’s midfield for years to come, and also the Spain national team after his head-turning performance during Euro 2020, where he was even awarded as the Best Young Player. “I’ve never seen anything like what Pedri has done, not even from ‘Sir’ Andres Iniesta,” said national team coach Luis Enrique after Spain’s heart-breaking semi-final defeat to Italy.
So, how did Pedri get so good, and so quickly?
Born in Tegueste, a town on the island of Tenerife in November 2002, Pedri took his first footballing steps in the youth categories of his hometown club UD Tegueste. His ability was obvious to the local talent spotters, although scouts from the island’s giant CD Tenerife initially considered him to be too small and skinny to excel at the top level.
Even though CD Tenerife did later try to sign the burgeoning star, Pedri had already committed to Juventud Laguna, another club on the island with an excellent reputation for developing players. SD Eibar’s Nano Mesa and Real Valladolid’s Samu Pérez are just a couple of the other players to have made it all the way from Juventud Laguna to LaLiga Santander in recent times.
During his three years with this club, Pedri honed his skills and whispers began to spread about just how good he was, whispers that spread across the Canary Islands and even all the way to the Spanish mainland. In Spring 2018, he had a trial at Real Madrid, aged just 15. But his next steps were to be taken in yellow and, in May 2018, he signed with UD Las Palmas, CD Tenerife’s local rivals.
Pedri signed on to play for UD Las Palmas’ youth team and continued his development at that level during the 2018/19 season, learning how to play in various different positions across the attacking line. But his talent shone through so much that the youngster was promoted to the first team by coach Pepe Mel. Wearing the number 28 on his back, Pedri made his senior debut on 18th August in a 1-0 loss to SD Huesca, aged just 16 years, eight months and 24 days.
It didn’t take long for other clubs on the mainland to start upping their interest in this youngster and FC Barcelona won the race for his signature, announcing in September 2019 that Pedri would join the Catalan club upon completion of the 2019/20 campaign.
Nobody knew at the time just quite how long the 2019/20 season would go on for, and Las Palmas would go on to finish ninth after the restart, outside the playoffs. On an individual level, though, Pedri had a year that he’ll never forget. Not only was this his first season in senior football, but he played 35 times in the league – more than he could have imagined – scoring three goals and remarkably setting up another seven.
“He’s someone who looks like he is a different age from his real age, someone who comes across as if he’s older,” Juventud Laguna President Julio Hernández explained in an interview. “I think Pedri is a blessing for Spanish football,” was coach Pepe Mel’s take, speaking at a Las Palmas press conference.
All those who have come across Pedri seem as fascinated by his rapid rise as they are excited about his future. FC Barcelona fans have quickly discovered just how good he in spite of his young age, and exactly why he was so in-demand among clubs from around Europe last summer.
Barcelona have long had a policy of giving rising stars a chance, as seen with the emergence of the likes of Ansu Fati, Gavi, Nico, Riqui Puig, and Ronald Araújo. But none have shone quite as brightly as Pedri, who after a sensational year and a half is already being touted as being in line for superstar status sooner rather than later. Watch this space.