Sports FOOTBALL From the beach to Barcelona, ​​laid-back style takes Spain...

From the beach to Barcelona, ​​laid-back style takes Spain by storm


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“IIf we are talking about pure talent, then he is the best in the world,” said Javi Hernandez. Luis Enrique called him “incredible, simply unique”, stating that no one has ever done what he did. And Julen Lopetegui, his predecessor as head coach of Spain, called him “special, one of those who appear only occasionally.” As for Pedri himself, he just wants to play football like always. “To have fun is the best thing you can do,” he says, a simple phrase that defines him.

When the Barcelona manager made his big statement, there was speculation that he had gone too far, so he “apologised” – saying it again. Xavi said that Pedri reminded him of Andres Iniesta – “the greatest talent I have ever seen” – which sounded like blasphemy, but no one knows Iniesta better, and Xavi was not alone. Luis Enrique was the player tasked with welcoming Iniesta to the Barcelona first team; now coach of the Spanish national team, he too drew comparisons after Pedri graced the Euros at the age of 18, stating: “No one has ever seen this, not even from ‘Sir’ Andrés Iniesta.”

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Javi insisted that he wasn’t just praising Pedri, not least because Pedri “doesn’t like eulogies.” “You can eventually believe it,” Pedri says, and although his life has changed “completely,” he says his game hasn’t changed and he gives the impression that he’s not affected by it, like he’s not listens, and the pressure acts. does not exist. The guy who showed up at the Camp Nou with his gear in his bag would certainly never lay claim to such a grandiose position, and indeed would not lay claim to anything at all. The parallel, however, is as pleasant as it is appropriate. “Iniesta always seemed like a good person,” says Pedri. “And he had such a calmness to play simply, to make it easier than it is. The way he could leave someone behind by changing gear has always amazed me.”

Pedri grew up in Teguesta, Tenerife as an Iniesta fan. His father, Fernando, was a third division goalkeeper but gave up football to run the family restaurant. Tasca Fernando is frequented by surfers heading towards the coast; it is also the headquarters of the Barcelona Island Supporters Club, founded by his grandfather in 1994. Pedri has photo of himself greetings from club president Joan Laporta when he was even smaller than he is now and wanted to cut his hair like Iniesta.

But this was not just an imitation; it was also evolution, something more natural. There is how you play, not just how well depends on the environment. Canarians David Silva and Juan Carlos Valeron testify: lightness with the ball, pause. A few years ago, a book was published about the Canarian character and how football is played on the islands. Practically a treatise, his introductory theory talks about beauty, improvisation, creativity and even art, about how to take your time. “It’s not slowness, [it is] stop time to turn the routine into the unexpected.”

At Las Palmas, Pedri, who played here against Tenerife in 2020, made his debut at the age of 16. Photo: High-quality sports images / Getty Images

Pedri was 13 when it was published, but you can hear him on the pages. This is his place and one of the reasons he supported the Adidas Run for the Oceans campaign against plastic pollution. “Football players are in a privileged position because people listen,” he says, “and for canary the ocean is so important: what are we without it? This is our future, our life, and we must take care of it, convince people of the need to use less plastic. If not us, then who?

“I wouldn’t say it’s a Canarian model, but there is a similarity between players and ideas, sort of: the idea of ​​playing on the street or on the beach. The climate affects this and wherever you go in the Canary Islands, you take the ball. You can tell by your football identity; people who like to dribble, to own the ball, to enjoy it.”

He admits: “Sometimes if two or three moves go without the ball, you get a little bored.” The good news is that it doesn’t happen often, no matter what his older brother Fernando says. Pedri laughs. “He lives with me. When I enter, I may have played a great game, but he remembers the mistake and reminds me of it. He is a pain, but a good one, trying to help me become a better person.

“He was a good player, very calm, defensive midfielder who didn’t fight much. We went to Bahamar and played. Anywhere: on the beach, on the courts, on the concrete in front of the house, wherever there is space. There were poles to stop the cars, and that was one goal, but the T-shirt was another. My dad used to be a goalkeeper. We played kids against parents and he went to the gate. The next day, he couldn’t even move.” And did they play well? “Yeah, they gave it their all…” A smirk appears. But they didn’t win.

Increasingly, Pedri did. Snow ruined the trial at Real Madrid. Villarreal, Deportivo and Tenerife decided against him: he was small, skinny and did not speak much. Las Palmas did sign him, although when Pepe Mel became manager he said they didn’t quite understand what they had and promoted Pedri to the first team at the age of 16. Barcelona signed him within a month, although he finished the season in the second division. He had only made 26 appearances for Barcelona when he was called up by Luis Enrique. The decision to take him to the Euro was justified, they voted for Golden Boy 2021.

Pedri from Barcelona with the Golden Boy award before the match against Elche in December 2021.
Pedri with the Golden Boy award before the match against Elche in December 2021. Photo: Albert Gea/Reuters

This was not without a price, especially since Pedri then went to the Olympics. He played 73 games in the 2020–21 season; An injury last season limited him to just 12 league games. Speaking now to Tenerife, he was not in Spain’s international squad this month. The World Cup will come, it will be. “I like to play, but it’s good to rest. It was crazy and it felt like every game went into overtime. [nine times Pedri played matches that went beyond 90 minutes]. Every time it happened, I thought: “This can’t be…” Everything happened so fast, but at the end of the season I was very tired.”

The forced absence only emphasized his importance. Xavi sees him as the player who best reflects the personality he is looking for at Barcelona. “Pedry gives us that pause, he doesn’t lose the ball, he always has a good position, he uses both feet. He dominates space and time beautifully: he is an excellent player,” said Xavi. “We have to look after him. Of the 12 games in which Pedri played, Barcelona did not lose a single one. They won 10 – just one less than in 26 games without it.

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That was enough to score one of the goals of the season, putting three Sevilla players on the floor and the Camp Nou on their feet. A similar moment came at Galatasaray when he paused, the world around him slowing down as the opponents flew by. “I always try to be calm, play like I was a kid. In this movement, you really don’t have time to think. This is intuitive. I’ve always done that.”

Is Barcelona the right place then? “I would try to play my game wherever I was, but it is true that I would suffer more elsewhere,” says Pedri. “Some clubs are happy with the victory, but they do it. Barcelona want to win, but do it by playing with the ball, creating chances with this idea. I like this kind of football.

“Xavi has a very clear vision, a model: he understands very clearly what each of us has to do: the inside midfielders have to be between the lines, the ball moves from one side to the other. What he did during the game – and it was impressive to watch him – he is trying to instill in us. interiors must hold our position. If you get out of position, then when you lose the ball, you won’t be able to press the way you need to: you won’t hit. He also wants to interiors turn to face the opponent’s goal.

Pedri, who plays for Barcelona, ​​shoots the ball past Sevilla's Ivan Rakitic during an April league match.
Pedri, who plays for Barcelona, ​​shoots the ball past Sevilla’s Ivan Rakitic during an April league match. Photo: Urbanandsport/NurPhoto

There is a line from Juanma Lillo, now Manchester City assistant manager, about Iniesta that suits Pedri, Valeron and Silva. According to Lillo, Iniesta was far from the idea of ​​one-touch football and took as many touches as he could to engage opponents, fix them and then play a pass, taking them all out of the game, freeing up time and space for teammates. He would take risks because he could, because on some subconscious level he knew he was better. Pedri applies this to Sergio Busquets: “He has to keep, attract, leave someone else alone: ​​we know he can face five, six and clean them out. You must attract opponents, be able to go alone.

It’s bravery, not a big defender diving into a desperate tackle. “It’s self-confidence,” Pedri replies. “You don’t have time to think, but you trust your abilities and you can tell when you don’t have them. It is also bold to be physically strong, to take such a risk; this is not easy either. But this is a different kind of courage. In the middle of the field, when the game is in full swing, you must have the confidence to ask for the ball and the confidence to keep it.

“Recently, I think there has been a turn towards a player who runs more than a player who is technical, who understands the game. Football is becoming more and more robotic, but there are still those who break this rule. I still play for fun. I always do that and it’s the best thing a footballer can do. If you like it, you will play much better.”

Luis Enrique said: “Pedry has the same style as Iniesta: they seem to be dancing.”

Pedri recently partnered with adidas for this year’s Run For The Oceans campaign, which removes plastic bottles from beaches, remote islands and coastlines before they enter the ocean. To learn more in

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