Sunday afternoon, September 17, Genoa hosted Lazio at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in front of a crowd of 19,065. In the end it was the visitors from Rome that came away with a 3-2 victory, earning all three points. Ciro Immobile scored the second of two goals for the day and the match-winner with a breakaway chip in the 82nd minute. Genoa fans were thus witness to their beloved team’s third straight loss. The club have tallied just one point from four games so far this season. However, those same fans also got to witness a bit of history. Born and raised in Genoa as one of their own, Pietro Pellegri became the youngest ever to score a brace in a Serie A match.
A name to remember
Don’t feel bad if you have not yet heard of Genoa’s Pietro Pellegri. But pay attention. It’s a name you’re going to want to remember.
Devoted Serie A fans are likely already very familiar with the talented 16-year-old. He made his league debut in December of 2016 coming on as a sub against Torino at the tender age of 15. Subsequently, Pellegri raised a few eyebrows on the last game of that same season. Starting against AS Roma at Stadio Olimpico the youngster scored a goal in the 3rd minute of the match. All the more celebrated as that game also happened to be Roma legend Francesco Totti’s farewell to football. Finally, this past weekend, Pellegri caught the attention of fans all across Europe with his two goal performance against Lazio’s Eagles.
Pellegri is Genovese through and through
Pietro’s father, Marco—an assistant coach for Genoa—was overcome with emotion. The elder Pellegri was seen in tears on the sidelines as his son scored his second goal. It is likely that no Genoa fan is going to be thinking about the match as a loss to Lazio. Uppermost in their minds will be how they watched a kid who came up through the Genoa youth system blossom into a star striker.
Even at such a young age Pietro has not been short of suitors trying to lure him to their club. During the summer transfer market Serie A’s top clubs were making inquiries about what it would take for him to join their ranks. At the end of the day he decided it was best to stay at Genoa. That’s likely just as well. At a smaller club like Genoa, Pellegri has the opportunity to grow and hone his skills without unnecessary pressure. He also has his father on the sidelines serving as a guiding presence. No doubt the younger Pellegri will be getting more and more offers from Europe’s elite clubs. He will need his father’s counsel. There have been reports which say AC Milan are in pole position to sign him in January. In the future there will no doubt be strong competition from a plethora of clubs across Europe.
Size and skills beyond his age
There are several reasons why Pietro Pellegri is so sought after. At 16, his knowledge of the game and decision making are far superior compared to his peers. For both of his goals against Lazio he found a way to put himself in a good position to score. He latched onto the chances when they were presented to him.
The young man is also already 6’4″ (193cm) making him a strong aerial threat. He is learning to use that large body more effectively over time. And getting stronger as well. Pellegri held off defender Konstantinos Manolas to slip the ball past Walter Szczesny when he scored against Roma.
After bursting onto the scene in December the youngster is already being compared to other star strikers across the continent. One of the most telling comparisons is to mercurial striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Given Pellegri’s age and experience he is certainly not yet on the same level as Ibra. Yet the rising star is indeed already showing some skills the great Zlatan has in his repertoire.
The next Totti?
Given time, Pietro Pellegri has all of the talent and potential to become Italy’s next star striker. Far too often, however, young talents are talked up and put under immense pressure to perform. Bigger clubs will soon be knocking on his door and it’s inevitable that he will eventually leave home. However—now that PSG’s ludicrous purchase of Neymar has inflated the transfer market—Genoa will undoubtedly only let a talent as promising as Pellegri’s go for a heavy sum.