Scouting Time: Facundo Pellistri
In this series, we take a look at some of the most interesting young talents in the world of football. Next up is Peñarol’s winger Facundo Pellistri.
The Uruguayan league resumed at the beginning of August with a clásico between eternal rivals Peñarol and Nacional. Shrouded in fog, a typically ill-tempered affair ended in a draw, but the quality of rising star Facundo Pellistri shone through.
The 18-year-old Peñarol academy product dazzled with his pace, dribbling and, above all, maturity, shouldering the pressure and responsibility of the feisty Montevideo derby like a veteran.
With a number of Europe’s elite already circling, it could well have been Pellistri’s last clásico for the foreseeable future.
Having cut his teeth playing Baby Futbol – Uruguay’s famed nationwide network of neighborhood youth clubs – he joined Peñarol’s youth division in 2012, impressing at every age category before making his senior debut last August at the age of 17.
Widely considered the best prospect from the Aurinegro academy since Federico Valverde, the verve and fearlessness of Pellistri’s wing play quickly saw him establish himself as a first-team regular. A move to Mallorca fell apart in January, but Pellistri has not let that bother him and this year he has become his side’s key attacking weapon under new boss Diego Forlan.
Primarily a right-winger, but capable of playing on either flank, Pellistri possesses a devastating turn of pace and is extremely quick across the ground both with and without the ball. Combined with his excellent ball control, agility and skillful footwork, this potent mix makes Pellistri an accomplished dribbler. Pellistri has averaged 9.56 dribbles per 90 this season with an impressive 60.87% success rate.
The word ‘desequilibrio’ often appears in reference to his ability to unsettle and unbalance opponents in 1v1 situations, as demonstrated above. One vocal admirer of his abilities is none other than Juan Roman Riquelme, the former mercurial playmaker and current Boca vice-president, who highlighted his audacity and bravery. Riquelme went as far as saying that there are few players around like Pellistri.
Unsurprisingly Pellistri also ranks third in the Uruguayan Primera for progressive runs (3.95 per 90). His wing wizardry also means he puts in a solid 3.33 crosses per 90 and draws plenty of fouls in dangerous areas.
Another noteworthy aspect of Pellistri’s game is his intelligence and mentality. Tactically he is versatile enough to be effective on either wing, knowing when to give width and when to pick his moments to cut inside to pockets of space more centrally. Indeed, like Valverde, he could see his future being in a more central position one day.
His decision making is good for a player of his age and the fact that he is already assuming the creative burden for one of the biggest clubs on the continent speaks highly of his temperament and ability to deal with pressure.
Away from the eye-catching attacking qualities, Pellistri also has all the defensive work-rate that has become par for the course when it comes to Uruguayan players. From pressing opponents high up the field, where he typically averages 1.25 recoveries in the final third and 2.29 counter-pressing recoveries per 90, to using his stamina and determination to track back and help out his full-back, Pellistri doesn’t shirk his defensive responsibilities.
Given that Pellistri is still a teenager with less than 30 professional games under his belt, there are still elements of his game that can be improved. With his slight physique, there are moments when he can be outmuscled and he understandably still lacks some physical development, although you would expect this development to come in time.
Furthermore, his end product could also be improved. So far Pellistri has one goal and three assists for Los Carboneros but the fact that this season he has averaged 1.66 shots and 4.16 touches in the penalty area per 90 suggests that he is at least getting into dangerous positions in the final third.
In an ideal world, Peñarol would love to hang on to the latest jewel in their crown until the end of the year, but with interest from everyone from continental powerhouses Boca and Flamengo through to European giants like Manchester City, Real Madrid and Lyon, any bid north of $10 million is likely to test their resolve.