Pietro Pellegri: Monaco's sensation with a knack for breaking records
''This is my year''
These were the first words of Pietro Pellegri after scoring his first goal for Monaco in the win against Bordeaux. In fact, no one can deny his saying. From breaking two distinct national records to winning his first call-up to the Italy squad, the 17-year-old's career has gone a long road in the past two years. After all, he had joined Monaco, a club with a known record of producing exceptional strikers, like Kylian Mbappe and Thiery Henry.
''We have found the new Messi''
This remarkable statement was articulated by Genoa's owner Enrico Preziosi back in 2015. Whereas with quite a bit of hyperbole, the comparison and only with the Argentinian legend was enough to give wings to Pellegri's career.
A product of Genoa's academy, Pellegri, born in 2001, made his debut on 22 December 2016 against Torino, replacing Tomas Rincon. On that day he broke three records: the youngest ever Serie A debutant (equaled the record of Amedeo Amadei of 15 years and 280 days), the first player born in the 21st century to make a Serie A debut and the second player born in the 2000s to do so (the first was Juventus', Moise Kean).
More records were about to follow. On May 28, 2017, Pellegri scored his first ever goal in the Serie A in the 3-2 away loss to Roma in his first start for Genoa. He became the first player ever born in the 21st century to do so and the third youngest player to score a goal in the history of Serie A, behind only Amedeo Amadei and Gianni Rivera.
The foundations had been laid. On September 2017, Pellegri became both the first 16-year-old to score a brace in a European league and the youngest Serie A player to do so in his team's home defeat against Lazio. His father could not hold back his tears.
The call of the ''titans''
With his performances, the Italian striker attracted the interest of many major European Clubs, including Manchester United, Juventus, Milan and Inter. In fact, last summer, Inter was reported to have agreed with Monaco for Pellegri and Salcedo, another product of Genoa's academy, a total fee of €60million. The deal was all but official when it was all of a sudden aborted due to capital controls issued to Inter's owner Suning by the Chinese government.
Milan then tried to seize the opportunity and sign Pellegri. According to the famous Italian journalist Gianluca Di Marzio, in August of 2017, the Rossoneri reached an agreement with Genoa for the transfer of the Italian prodigy which would take place in the following winter transfer window. However, the deal fell through. Moreover, it was brought to light later that Pellegri had snubbed a move to Manchester United in 2015 due to his preference to play with his favoured Genoa.
A new chapter: Monaco
The winter transfer window of 2018 brought Pellegri into the center of attention again. Genoa had already accepted that their offspring was about to begin a new chapter in his life. At first, it was reported that Juventus, who had tried, unsuccessfully, to bring Pellegri to Turin in 2015, had managed to agree on a deal with Genoa, however, the president of the Genovese club insisted on waiting for other offers. Then, Monaco came with a last-minute offer. The proposed fee was around €25million and Genoa accepted, snubbing the offer from Juventus.
Pellegri was unveiled as a Monaco player on 27 January 2018. However, in his first season, he managed to make only 3 appearances for his new club before being ruled out for rest of the season due to pubalgia. In fact, he underwent a groin operation in March in order to overcome his injury.
The Italian suffered another injury in August and as a result, he wasn't included in Monaco's squad until the third game. On that game on 26 August 2018, Les Rouges et Blancs were facing Bordeaux away from home. Pellegri came in for Adama Traore in the 59' and 4 minutes later he scored, equalizing for his team. Monaco was eventually defeated with a late goal but Pellegri had made history once again. He became the first ever player born in 2001 to score in the Ligue 1 (17 years, 5 months and 9 days), a record he broke one year ago in the Serie A. Furthermore, he became the second youngest player to ever score a goal in Ligue 1, only behind Mbappe.
His achievements earned him his first ever call-up to Italy's senior squad a few days ago. However, the Azzurri officially announced yesterday that Pellegri was excluded from the squad due to an injury and that he was to return immediately to Monaco.
Despite his misfortunes, Pellegri's future looks brighter than ever. Can he follow in the footsteps of the sensational Mbappe? It is too soon to know for sure. The 4 minutes he needed to score his first goal for Monaco and the records he has already broken may be indicative of what is to follow next.