Despite being only 16 years old, Pietro Pellegri is already living his childhood dream.
The prodigious Italian striker, who was included in our list of the ten best teenage footballers in Europe, is a dyed-in-the-wool Genoa fan, an avid Grifone supporter who cherishes memories of cheering on his heroes from the Stadio Luigi Ferraris’ Gradinata Nord stand alongside his father.
Now, he is the talk of Italian football and the latest young star to emerge from Genoa’s academy. Wanted by Inter Milan, Manchester United and Chelsea, the 6ft 4ins teenager speaks of wanting to emulate Roma legend Francesco Totti by becoming part of football’s dying breed, the one-club man.
However, it wasn’t to be and the youngster made a surprise €25million move to Monaco. The surprise wasn’t the fee, nor was it the fact he moved, it was because he moved to Ligue 1.
The current French champions have a strategy in place. To sign talent, develop them and then sell for a huge profit. If he wants to improve he’s moved to the right club. But how did Europe’s elite let this happen? In a couple of years he could be worth five times that amount.
An injury to Ricardo Centurión meant that Pellegri was thrown into the fray after just 33 minutes, with his side trailing their visitors thanks to Bastos’ early strike, but the Italy under-17 international quickly proved himself up to the task of rescuing his side.
His first strike, a deflected effort which spun past goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha, drew Genoa level, only for Ciro Immobile to restore the away side’s lead. Undeterred, our youthful subject reestablished parity three minutes later with a sublime lunging volley.
Immobile scored again late on to ensure that Simone Inzaghi’s men claimed all three points, but Pellegri was unquestionably the star of the show. His double made him the youngest player in Serie A history to net a brace, and his was the name on the lips of Serie A fans discussing the weekend’s action.
Pellegri’s emergence as a player of real potential will come as no surprise to many within the Serie A sphere. Indeed, Inter Milan reportedly lodged a €30million-plus-bonuses double bid for he and fellow Genoa prospect Eddy Salcedo over the summer, with the Nerazzurri prepared to allow the pair to stay on loan with their current club to develop for two years.
In 2015, Pellegri became the object of Manchester United‘s desire after impressing in a youth tournament. The Red Devils, in their efforts to woo the young striker, offered to fly him to England and give him the full V.I.P. treatment at a Premier League game against Chelsea, and were ready to sweeten the pot by offering his father, a first-team administrative manager with Genoa, a position at the club.
Genoa have, thus far, managed to resists all efforts to prise the gifted attacker from their grasp, with the player’s fandom a clear ace in the hole when it comes to seeing off bids from a swathe of super clubs from home and abroad.
With a strong record of promoting and developing young players, staying put has proven to be a sound decision for Pellegri, who would have struggled to gain the same kind of first-team opportunities elsewhere as he has received with Genoa.
In December last season, aged just 15 years and 280 days, he made his senior debut against Torino, becoming the joint-youngest player ever to play in Serie A, equalling a record set by Roma‘s Amedeo Amadei way back in 1937.
And on the final day of the season, Pellegri threatened to upset Totti’s leaving party at the Stadio Olimpico, becoming the third-youngest player ever to score in Italy’s top flight.
Pellegri has named Manchester United striker Zlatan Ibrahimović as one of his idols, and the two men share stylistic traits: both are tall, rangey and physically strong, yet blessed with an immaculate touch, vision and near-perfect shooting technique.
Deceptively fast for his size, Pellegri already has a strong appreciation of positioning and how to sniff out pockets of space in and around the penalty area. And, when in sight of goal, he strikes the ball cleanly and crisply, whether volleying or with the ball on the ground.
The teenager’s father, Marco, was pictured in tears of joy on the Genoa bench after his son’s exploits against Lazio, and the player himself broke down when shown the footage of his dad post-match.
Pellegro Sr. even once told the press that he’d be able to “go ahead and die” upon seeing his son pull on the colours they both hold so dear, “because it will mean that I have seen everything.”
But Marco will want to stick around for a while longer yet, as there is much more to come from the young Pellegri.