Messi has found his Iniesta at Barcelona in teenage star Pedri
For Barcelona, positive things happen when Lionel Messi interacts with teenage teammate Pedro “Pedri” González.
Twice in just over three weeks, after setting him up with spectacular assists, Pedri has given Messi reason to smile. The agile midfielder deftly rolled his boot over the ball to drive it behind him to leave Messi free to score at Athletic Bilbao in Wednesday’s 3-2 win and Valladolid on Dec. 22 in a 3-0 win.
The 18-year-old Pedri, speaking about Bilbao’s support, said the link with the 33-year-old Messi was working.
After scoring, the embrace Messi gave Pedri left many Barcelona fans hoping that this was the beginning of a relationship that could help persuade Messi to stay when his contract expires. After a title-less 2019-20 season, Messi said in August that he wanted out. He said last week that he’s not going to make a final decision until this season’s over.
Barcelona is showing signs that it may still be a force in this year’s Spanish league title fight, with five wins and two draws in its last seven matches. With Real Madrid in the second position, Atlético Madrid is currently in the lead.
On Saturday, Barcelona visited Granada after climbing to the third position after the San Mamés Stadium victory in one of its best-attacking results since Ronald Koeman took over before the season.
Most definitely, Pedri will be back in Koeman’s starting lineup for a visit to southern Spain when he plays with a seventh-place Granada team after losing just once in eight home games this season.
Koeman has tinkered all season with his lineup in search of his perfect squad. But Pedri, who Koeman used in every midfield role and on both flanks of the attack, was the one constant. In 22 of 23 matches, Pedri has played.
After the departures of Andrés Iniesta and Xavi Hernández, his dribbling, vision and passing abilities in tight spaces have made him the perfect playmaker Barcelona has been looking for.
Anyone’s guess is whether or not Pedri’s talent and understanding with his teammates may be a justification for Messi to stay. But there’s a change in Barcelona, and Koeman has Pedri to thank for giving him some hope that the team will contend for the titles.