Spain boss Luis Enrique insists Pedri 'can improve everything' ahead of Iceland clash

By Sports Desk March 28, 2022

Spain coach Luis Enrique sees plenty of room for growth in Barcelona star Pedri, suggesting he "can improve everything".

Pedri announced himself on the international stage at Euro 2020, where he made the most final-third passes (177), before achieving the same tournament-leading feat with the Under-23 squad at the Tokyo Olympics (83).

The midfielder also started in the 2-1 friendly win over Albania on Saturday, his 11th consecutive appearance under Luis Enrique without losing for Spain, only Jose Gaya (15) boasts a longer such streak.

Former La Roja midfielder Cesc Fabregas heaped praise on the 19-year-old, in an interview with Marca, while praising Barca head coach Xavi for trusting Pedri when others may favour a more "combative" player.

Luis Enrique echoed Fabregas' sentiments at Monday's pre-match news conference ahead of a friendly with Iceland, but claimed the teenager can still develop all areas of his game.

"Sports players are talented athletes, we do not care about age, or physique," the Spain boss said when asked about Fabregas' comments. "If we had that idea, Pedri would not play a single minute, nor would he be in the squad. Here what we're looking for is football talent, it's very easy.

He added: "The first time I saw Pedri was when he was playing with Las Palmas, already at that age we saw that he was something special.

"What does he have to improve? Everything. He can improve everything. With that ability and talent, even his defending, he can improve everything.

"You have to let him grow and develop. We have always liked players with that football brain and tactical profile."

Pedri joined his coach at the news conference and suggested he does not feel the added pressure on him as world football hails his potential.

"I am aware. I take it very calmly, I have to take the weight off myself. The team is more important than a player," he said.

Pedri and Barca team-mate Gavi have drawn comparisons to Blaugrana greats Xavi and Andres Iniesta, but he acknowledged it will be difficult to emulate the legendary pair.

"Xavi and Iniesta? Hopefully," he responded. "It's very difficult to do what they did. I have a spectacular relationship with [Gavi], I have a special appreciation for him and I think he has very good potential."

Fellow Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets remains captain of the national team, but Luis Enrique suggested the 33-year-old must continue with his performance levels to keep the armband.

"No one is irreplaceable. We are all aware of the importance he has in the national team," he said of Busquets. "If his level is the same as always, he remains captain and gives us everything he gives us.

"His behaviour is exemplary but also [Jordi] Alba and Koke, they perform a similar role and are important."

Speculation has persisted over Luis Enrique's future, with suggestions he may soon opt for a role in club football. However, the former Barca coach was quick to reiterate his desire to work with the national setup.

"I've explained it to you so many times and in different ways," he told reporters about his plans. "It's up to you. In Qatar? Sure, I will be in charge. I want nothing more than to represent my country at the World Cup."

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