In our relaunched weekly Scout feature, we take a deep dive into an emerging player on track to become a footballing superstar before our very eyes.
This week’s edition focuses on Watford forward Joao Pedro, a player both Liverpool and Man City attempted to recruit as a teenager.
Pedro is a Brazilian forward currently making waves at Watford. The 19-year-old agreed to join the Hornets in 2018, but didn’t arrive at Vicarage Road until the 2020 winter window after his work permit was finally received.
During that time in limbo with boyhood club Fluminense, Pedro established himself as one of Brazil’s most talked about prospects.
An incredible purple patch comprising seven goals in just 209 minutes of first-team action set pulses racing at what the English game would witness once he arrived.
His career path and trajectory mirrors that of another Brazilian all too familiar with British audiences – Richarlison.
Both began their careers at Fluminense before joining Watford, but the similarities are not restricted to off the field…
Why the hype?
Standing at six-foot tall, Pedro has the natural height to mix it with the traditional English centre-half. Initially a slight figure, the teenager packed on seven kilograms of muscle mass during the most recent off-season.
Positionally versatile, Pedro is capable of playing across the entire forward line in multiple different systems. During Troy Deeney’s recent injury absence, the centre-forward’s role became his own.
The club captain’s return has seen him shifted out wide, but with significant pace, mesmeric feet and a genuine eye for a defence-splitting pass, Pedro has remained just as effective.
He possesses all the tricks and skills you’re likely to see on a FIFA YouTube video. Put simply, he is a defender’s worst nightmare in one-on-ones. Not only will the unfortunate marker be dispatched with consummate ease, but they’ll be left red-faced and praying their ordeal doesn’t soon become a Twitter meme.
His finishing ability has been lauded, but unlike most youngsters, Pedro possesses an excellent weak foot. Inspired to work on eradicating his weaknesses from witnessing Richarlison’s hard work and dedication up close and personal in Brazil, the rising star’s list of deficiencies is growing smaller at a rapid rate.
Five goals have been notched in the current campaign as Watford’s attempts to ensure their Championship stay is a short one have got off to a flying start.
Reminds you of a young…?
Who else but Richarlison?
Social media went into meltdown when Everton rejected a reported £85m bid for the forward in January. But looking at the figures in the cold light of day offers a different perspective.
Richarlison’s goal return at what can only be described as a mid-table team during his time at Goodison Park has been more than impressive. He’s certainly done enough to satisfy national team manager Tite – Richarlison is now a regular starter in the Seleção’s front line.
The duo share similar dribbling styles, body types, aerial ability and icy composure in front of goal.
Describing someone as the ‘new Richarlison’ a few years ago might’ve produced a roll of the eyes or a shrug of the shoulders. Saying it now whets the appetite.
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Don’t be fooled into thinking Pedro is all show and no go. His goals this season have come at crucial and opportune times. Of his five strikes, only one was while Watford already held a lead.
One of that quintet stands out above all others.
With the scores deadlocked and less than 15 minutes to go, Pedro announced his English arrival in style.
The Experts’ View
Early career moves can often be fraught with risk, but Richarlison, while insisting Pedro has a “big future”, knew Watford would be the perfect place to land.
He told The Athletic: “I told him that it was a great place for a young player. I think he’ll do well there. It might be difficult because of his position: Troy Deeney is the captain and will be hard to displace.
“But Joao Pedro has a big future. The kid is talented. If he stays focused, he can go far.”
Following his teenage heroics with Fluminense, prominent Brazilian television pundit and commentator Dejan Petkovic delivered a bold statement. He insisted (via The Athletic) that what Pedro had achieved at his age eclipsed the comparative accomplishments of Kylian Mbappe.
“He’s 17 and he’s made a better start to his career than (Kylian) Mbappe. Look how many games and goals he has. How old was Ronaldo when he went to the World Cup in 1994? I’m not saying Joao Pedro is Pele, but he’s made a fantastic start.”
Tell us something we don’t know…
Man City had deployed a scout to Rio de Janeiro to monitor the player, but Liverpool’s interest by all accounts was the greater.
Watford’s South American scouting network saw them steal a march on the prospect. However, just to be sure their target was landed, a measure of insurance was put in place.
In mid-2019, The Metro reported that should his preliminary deal with the Hornets collapse and Pedro join another English side, Watford would be paid a £20m fee by the new purchasing club.
That figure wasn’t enough to end Liverpool’s interest, indicating just how bright the Reds thought Pedro’s star would shine.
A perfect fit for…?
The obvious answer is any club wanting to win.
The Daily Mail previously noted that Pedro has attracted the attentions of LaLiga giants Real Madrid and Barcelona. But with his career blossoming so wonderfully in England, an extended stay on these shores would seem the most prudent move.
The Manchester clubs have taken note, but it is Liverpool who held the strongest interest.
The Anfield hierarchy don’t get it wrong in the transfer market often these days, and with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane both in their late-twenties, Pedro could be the long-term successor on a Liverpool wing.
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