Manchester United fans will be delighted to see that their club have finally shelled out some money to bring in a new forward.
This entire summer has been spent pursuing Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho, and the Red Devils have been so hyper-focused on getting him for less than £108m that they’ve almost entirely neglected the rest of their needs in the transfer market.
United have finally pulled the trigger, but it’s not Sancho who’s coming to Old Trafford (at least for now). Instead, it’s Uruguayan teenager Facundo Pellistri.
The 18-year-old forward is set to leave Peñarol in a deal worth around £10m, which is a fair bit of money for a teenager who is yet to make too much noise outside of South America.
It’s not the proven superstar which United fans have spent this summer hoping for. Instead, Pellistri is more of a work in progress, but with a little patience, he could hit the heights which scouts have been predicting for years.
Pellistri is already the type of player United want. He’s a tricky winger who enjoys floating around to find space, and once he’s got the ball at his feet, his first through is to run at his defender to try and make something happen.
From that description alone, it’s clear why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants Pellistri. The boss has built a team of young, dynamic forwards who enjoy beating defenders and creating chances. Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood do that for fun, but the same cannot be said for the rest of United’s wide players.
Dan James means well but is yet to really prove his credentials at the highest level, Juan Mata doesn’t have the speed to get the job done out there and the jury’s still out on Jesse Lingard. When Solskjaer’s preferred front three can’t find a way through a stubborn defence, the current fear is that there’s nobody to turn to on the bench.
In Pellistri, United have found the kind of player they need. The winger, who prefers to be deployed on the right but is happy both left and centrally, has forged a reputation as a dangerous dribbler who is capable of beating his man with terrifying ease.
In Uruguay’s Primera División, he boasts one of the highest success rates when it comes to dribbling, which is even more impressive when you consider the sheer amount of dribbles he attempts. Beating a defender is his bread and butter.
Pellistri possesses terrifyingly quick feet and a low centre of gravity which, when added to his small stature, has previously drawn comparisons to Lionel Messi. That’s obviously a little excessive at the moment, but if you want to know about his playstyle, it’s not far off.
He also boasts a surprising physical strength for someone with a skinny 5’8 frame. He’s not going to bully his way past defenders, but defenders won’t be able to bully him either.
Once he makes it past his man, Pelliisti’s first instinct is to cross the ball. He enjoys firing the ball in low but is happy to send it in high if the situation calls for it, and he can do so with both feet, which makes him incredibly tricky to stop.
However, here’s where you’ll find a common criticism of Pellistri. For somebody who finds himself in dangerous positions so often, his end product has been more than a little underwhelming at this point in his career.
In his 37 senior appearances to date, Pellistri has managed just two goals and four assists in all competitions, so he’s not exactly the scariest player once he gets into those positions.
He’s generally an accurate passer and can be relied upon during build-up phases, but once the pressure falls on his shoulders to create a goal (whether that be scoring or assisting), Pellistri does have a nasty habit of making the wrong decision.
It’s something which Peñarol have worked hard to try and address. Former manager Diego Forlán told Fox Sports (via Directv Sports) back in April that the teenager still has work to do before he reaches the top level, but Pellistri has all the exciting characteristics you look from in a future star.
What will impress Solskjaer even more is his mentality and work rate. Despite being an attack-minded winger, it’s not uncommon to see Pellistri tracking back to put in some work on the defensive end. He’s even been deployed as a wing-back in Uruguay for that exact reason.
For 2020/21 United, Pellistri stands to be an impact player. There won’t be a lot of faith in his end product just yet, but as a late substitute, his agility and raw talent will make him a nightmare for tiring defenders.
Given he’s just 18 years old, he shouldn’t be expected to be an immediate star. He still needs time to figure things out, but there are plenty of signs to suggest that he’ll be able to get there in the near future.