It was difficult to look at the institutional and on-field crisis at Barcelona – not to mention Philippe Coutinho appearing off the bench and score twice against his parent club – and blame Messi for wanting to see out his twilight years elsewhere.
You can imagine some pretty terse and awkward conversations between the club hierarchy and its greatest-ever player. In the end, he stayed, seemingly strongarmed by the threat of taking the ugly contractual dispute to the courts.
But maybe he came to his decision another way. Some backroom Barcelona boardroom, lights dimmed, and a presentation that ended with an EDM-soundtracked video: ‘Pedri 2019/20 – Amazing Skills, Goals & Assists – HD.’
The most talented youngster in Spain was coming to the Camp Nou.
Having been handed his debut at Las Palmas age of just 16 back in August 2019, a €5million deal was agreed for Pedri to go to Barcelona after seeing through the season with the island club in the Segunda Division.
The prodigiously-talented youngster capped off his debut campaign by scoring in a 5-1 thrashing of Extremadura, and soon enough would be striking up a brutally effective partnership with Messi.
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He only turned 18 in November but has been central to Barcelona’s resurgence this season, shining alongside Messi as they’ve taken 39 points from the last 45 on offer to remain biting at Atletico Madrid’s tail in the La Liga title race.
Such has been Pedri’s domestic form, he’s been impossible to ignore for Spain boss Luis Enrique. Handed his debut off the bench in an underwhelming 1-1 draw with Greece, he made his first start three days later, a 2-1 comeback victory in Georgia.
Having ended the last international break in November with a scintillating 6-0 thrashing of Germany, Luis Enrique’s men have been tepid on their return to international action, but Pedri has shone.
Just look at this pass.
The vision, the technique, the cojones to even try it. The kid is dynamite.
Receiving the ball deep on the left and out by the touchline, Pedri needed one touch and two seconds on the ball before thundering the ball across the pitch, cutting right through Georgia’s two banks of five and finding Manchester City’s Ferran Torres arriving at the far post.
It’s a minor footballing tragedy that Torres failed to connect, because it would have been one of the best assists you’ll see all year.
As is the case for Barcelona, Spain are going to be asked questions by inferior sides that camp all their players in their defensive third, denying them space, asking them to solve the puzzle. It worked well enough for Russia as they dumped La Roja out of the last World Cup, untroubled by their 1,008 passes.
Which is why having a player that will even think about playing a pass like that, let alone execute it perfectly, will prove invaluable.
Pedri has already proven himself indispensable at Barcelona. Expect that to be the case for Spain at the Euros this summer, too.