Lionel Messi has found his Iniesta clone at Barcelona in teen sensation Pedri… the midfield star has been the catalyst at the Nou Camp after striking up a partnership with the Argentine and could prove crucial in convincing him to stay this summer
- Midfielder Pedri has been a bright spark in a season of struggle for Barcelona
- The 18-year-old is becoming a fan favourite after pulling the strings for Barca
- Pedri combined with Lionel Messi on Wednesday in their 3-2 win over Bilbao
- He shows similarities to club icon Andres Iniesta, who Messi loved playing with
- Pedri’s influence could carry Barca this season and convince Messi to stay
When Pedri became the youngest player to score and assist in the same La Liga game on Wednesday night aged just 18 years and 42 days the one who seemed to enjoy it most was Lionel Messi.
He had found Pedri in space on the edge of the area and than ran on to his clever back-heeled flick sending it past Athletic keeper Unai Simon. He then made sure he found Pedri again to celebrate the goal.
On Pedri’s young shoulders now seems to rest Barcelona’s season. He’s been the catalyst of late as they have crept back up to third place. But amid all the ‘Pedrimania’ the club’s supporters are wondering if the teenager might save more than just the season. He could end up being the reason Messi stays at the club.
Pedri has emerged as the catalyst for Barcelona after helping the club climb the LaLiga table
He combined with Messi against Bilbao on Wednesday as he scored and provided his assist
Much has been said about what would tempt Messi to sign a new contract at the end of this season. From the improbable: ‘return of Neymar’, to the overly simplistic: ‘big new contract’, to the credible: ‘right man winning the election’.
But maybe more than money, Neymar and Joan Laporta, it’s a skinny kid from the Canary Islands who was just about to celebrate his second birthday when Messi was making his debut, who ends up making the Argentine stay.
When Messi broke through he was taken under the wing of sorcerer supreme Ronaldinho. Now it’s his turn to be the master to a bright young apprentice.
Pedri has the quality to rescue Barcelona’s season but he could prove to be even more valuable
Describing his assist to Messi on Wednesday, Pedri said: ‘It all happened really quickly. He played the ball to me from behind and then he said something to me, if he doesn’t say anything then I don’t see his run. I saw that the keeper had come out so I played him in and he scored.’
Messi wants players around him who are tuned in to the same wavelength. He wants accomplices who will understand the quick word, nod and glance. Pedri speaks the same language as the Barcelona number 10.
Jorge Valdano said of him: ‘He is decisive and yet with a cigar-smoking calm. In football the one who can provide the pause makes the difference,’ and it certainly seems he has more time on the ball than almost everyone else.
The teenager is exactly the player Messi wants to link up with and could convince him to stay
Last season he played for former Betis and West Brom boss Pepe Mel at Las Palmas, because having bought him from Las Palmas, Barcelona loaned him back to the second division club so he could get a season’s experience.
Mel was quick to spot the sublime talent and was talking up the player even when other believed he was exaggerating about the potential.
When it seemed he might stay on loan for another season at Las Palmas Mel said: ‘We hope so but if I was Barcelona coach I would keep him. When you see the way he receives the ball and how he links with his team-mates you see how fantastic he is.’
Mel had given Pedri his debut not long after he had turned 16 and he tipped Real Madrid off about the sensational young talent he was fast-tracking but he says: ‘Barcelona were the bravest [moving first to sign him] and now they are reaping the benefits.’
Pedri’s talent was spotted early on as it became clear about his massive potential in the game
Real Madrid had taken a closer look at Pedri even before he had moved to Las Palmas. He had impressed at local Tenerife club Union Deportivo Tegueste, and in February 2018 Madrid had him on trial at Valdebebas but after watching him in a match with their C-team and in a couple of snow interrupted training sessions they decided to pass and Las Palmas signed him.
Watching him weave threads of gold through rival defences he looks like a graduate from Barcelona’s La Masia who has had the Barca mechanisms instilled him over years.
It’s that appreciation of a certain way of playing, knowing the runs to make, the tempo to apply, the pass to choose, that La Masia graduate Messi has so welcomed. There are shades of Andres Iniesta – another who joined Barcelona very young and who had the same deceivingly underwhelming physique.
Pedri is showing shades of club icon Andres Iniesta (R), who also joined Barca at a young age
Messi still mourns the departure of Iniesta but finally has a ‘clone’ to swap passes with in Pedri
Albert Benaiges who discovered Iniesta believes it’s unfair to label Pedri the new Andres but he can’t help making certain comparisons.
‘He is intelligent,’ he says. ‘Technically he is very good and although he is not aggressive he works hard. In that sense he is a lot like Andres. And they are alike in the way they are as people. They way the get along with team-mates inside the dressing room.’
Iniesta even blessed the arrival of Pedri to the club sending the player a special message at his presentation last summer.
It’s no secret that Messi mourned the departure of Iniesta every bit as much as the exits of Neymar and Luis Suarez. Now he has an Iniesta clone to swap passes with. It’s a connection that might just convince him that staying at the Camp Nou will be worth his while after all.
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