Iniesta's heir arrives at Barca after snow stopped Real Madrid trial

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After spending 2019-20 on loan with boyhood club Las Palmas, Pedri was presented by Barcelona on Thursday, but he almost joined Real Madrid.

The snowfall that hit Madrid in February 2018 initially appeared worse than it was, with the seas of white that engulfed fields, pitches and gardens in Spain's capital clearing quicker than one might've expected.

It was enough to cause Real Madrid to cancel their training for the day on February 5, allowing Cristiano Ronaldo an unexpected day off on his birthday – though daily sports publication AS were particularly critical of the club for essentially shutting down with a crucial UEFA Champions League tie with Paris Saint-Germain little more than a week away.

As it happened, Madrid went on to claim a third successive European crown, so the issue of a day off almost certainly won't have been raised again. However, it was this snowfall that proved a major disruption to the trial of a kid from the Canary Islands who was "about to sign", according to his father.

Pedri, 15 at the time, did not join Real Madrid. While he may have been shown the cold shoulder amid the snowfall, the midfielder subsequently signed with local side Las Palmas... And then Barcelona came calling.

Almost a year on from agreeing a deal with the Blaugrana, Pedri was finally presented as a Barca player on Thursday - while it may be a difficult time for the club, the 17-year-old's arrival is a reason for optimism.

Made for Barca

A diminutive, but effortlessly silky midfielder, it's little wonder Pedri has linked up with Barca. "I have that Barca DNA," he said to EFE in his first major interview after his move was confirmed last year. "My desire is to resemble [Andres] Iniesta. I have always said he is my idol and he'll remain that until I die."

Pedri's rise was impressive. In a little over a year, he progressed through the Juvenil A, B and Division de Honor teams in Las Palmas' academy before being introduced into the first-team picture in 2019 for pre-season.

He quickly became an undisputed starter – he initially didn't expect to even reach the Division de Honor team in 2019-20.

Las Palmas had been cautious about showing him off too early, aware that such a talent would immediately attract offers. Instead, they reportedly waited until they had him secured to a professional contract with a €30million release clause and then promised they'd sell him to an interested party straight away.

Barca made their move in September. An initial €6m could become €25m should Pedri meet certain criteria at Camp Nou – and at this point, few would bet against him making a lasting impression in Catalonia.

Once again Real Madrid were left frustrated, with a second attempt to sign Pedri coming too late – not that they would have necessarily been successful otherwise, as the teenager's father is the president of a local Barcelona supporters' club, which his grandfather founded.

"Barca DNA" indeed.

"One in a million"

Pepe Mel was the coach who put his faith in Pedri last year, the experienced tactician clearly stunned by the youngster's abilities.

"Look at this boy, because he's one in a million and he doesn't know it," Mel said at the time. "He will define a new era in Spanish football."

A bold prediction of one so young, but Pedri took to first-team football with immense comfort, his performances in the Segunda in 2019-20 suggesting he's ready for LaLiga straight away and that Mel's foretelling might be on the money.

It had initially been expected that Pedri would spend another season on loan in the second tier with Las Palmas, or move to Barca's B team had they been promoted to the Segunda.

But now he is attracting loan interest from LaLiga clubs and appears set for a chance to impress Ronald Koeman and the new coaching staff in the shortened pre-season. Given the likely upheaval at Camp Nou over the next few weeks, a first-team role is by no means out of the question.

Shouldering the burden

While he possesses the skillset to play virtually anywhere across the midfield, by his own admission Pedri is most effective in the centre where he can take the game to the opposition, exploit gaps in defences and dazzle with his close dribbling.

Despite his age, Pedri was a key player for Las Palmas this season, scoring four goals and setting up another six. Six of those goal involvements came in the first 10 matches of the campaign, highlighting there was a bit of a dip in terms of overall productivity – though he's still proven effective.

Despite missing a chunk of the season to take part in the Under-17 World Cup in October and November, Pedri played more league matches (36) than anyone else for Las Palmas in 2019-20 and his 60 chances created was unmatched among team-mates. Only nine players in the entire league have produced more key passes.

Nineteen Segunda players have attempted more dribbles than Pedri's 108, but only three can better his 62 per cent completion rate.

And of 1,284 attempted passes, 80 per cent found a team-mate. While by no means a startling statistic, context is key – many of those with better records on the face of it are central defenders or players operating in less-congested areas of the pitch than Pedri.

What's clear is, Pedri's already operating at a very high level for a 17-year-old. With many of Barca's midfield options aging, seemingly on their way out or unconvincing, an opportunity could present itself for him sooner rather than later. 

Snow may have prevented a move to Madrid two years ago, but Pedri can surely look forward to many frosty receptions in Clasico contests during the 2020s.

Source Omnisport