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Pedri and football's Olympic tribute


Luis Enrique will announce his first squad list of the season on Thursday. On the horizon is the trip to Sweden, Spain’s main rival in World Cup qualifying, with the tournament in Qatar around the corner in November of next year. One name that will not be on the list is Pedri, who has been granted a holiday by Barcelona because he is literally exhausted. The breakout player of the 2020-21 season, he played every game for his club except one, towards the end of the campaign with nothing at stake, when Ronaldo Koeman gave him a rest. Then he was a starter for Spain at the European Championship, playing all but one minute of the tournament, and from there he went straight to Tokyo with the Olympic side before returning to Camp Nou without a break.

After playing Barça’s first game of the new season, Koeman, in the knowledge that the 18-year-old was spent (above all mentally, he was not at his best in Tokyo) gave him a week off. It was a wise and opportune decision. Now, of course, Luis Enrique will miss him but that cannot be blamed on Barcelona but perhaps should be on the Spanish Football Federation, who could have excused him the trip to the Olympics along with others who had played in the Euros and who are now also knackered, albeit without a holiday on the horizon. Or maybe even Pedri himself is at fault: he could have elected not to go the Games. In fact, Barcelona petitioned the federation not to select him and the player not to accept.

Casillas, Ronaldo and Olympic regret

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But Pedri wanted to play and that doesn’t surprise me. Iker Casillas once told me that he regretted not playing at an Olympics. The Sydney Games, when his generation fronted by Xavi won silver, came when he was battling to be installed as undisputed number one at Real Madrid and in the same summer that César arrived. Fearing he would lose his place, he decided not to play for Spain in Australia. Ronaldo (Nazario, the genuine article) always regretted his bronze medal in 1996, because it was not the colour he wanted. After so many victories throughout their careers, both were left with the feeling that one was missing. In football, despite what many people think, the Olympics are viewed with special respect. That was the basis of Pedri’s decision, and his current fatigue.