Luis Enrique hailed Spain sensation Pedri, comparing the teenager to Barcelona and La Roja great Andres Iniesta following Tuesday’s Euro 2020 semi-final loss to Italy.
Italy booked their place in the final with a 4-2 penalty shoot-out victory over Spain after the enthralling showdown finished 1-1 at Wembley.
Despite Spain’s frustrating outing after substitute Alvaro Morata cancelled out Federico Chiesa’s opener, it was a memorable campaign for 18-year-old star Pedri.
Pedri became the first European player in major tournament history (World Cup and Euros) to start as many as six such matches at the age of 18 or below and Luis Enrique lavished the Barcelona midfielder in praise.
“Well I think no 18-year-old has done what Pedri has done in any major competition, whether it’s the Euros, the World Cup or the Olympics,” Luis Enrique told reporters.
“His performances, the way he reads the game, the way he finds space, his quality, his personality, I’ve never seen anything like that, not even Andres Iniesta.
“It’s absolutely impossible to explain.”
Luis Enrique also lauded attacker Dani Olmo, adding: “[He] was absolutely fantastic today, he’s a very intelligent player with plenty of quality. He is good between the lines, he picks up the ball well.
“We wanted to starve [Giorgio] Chiellini and [Leonardo] Bonucci of that focal point and I think we did that really well. We wanted to prevent them from doing what they did with [Romelu] Lukaku so it was about creating that four versus three in that area of the pitch. That meant it was going to be difficult for them to take the ball from us.
“We created a lot of chances and I think we were just missing that final step in terms of taking some of our chances. It’s very difficult to get the ball off a player like Dani Olmo so I think the players implemented our tactics to perfection. Olmo is a very important player for us because he can play in a range of different situations. He can score goals and he’s a very complete footballer.”
Left out of the starting line-up for the first time this tournament, Morata made an impact from the bench by equalising with 10 minutes remaining in normal time following Chiesa’s 60th-minute opener.
Neither side could find a way through in the additional period in what was a repeat of the 2012 final, which Spain won 4-0 for their third European title, though it was Italy who prevailed in Tuesday’s enthralling clash.
Morata’s penalty was saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma, paving the way for Jorginho to convert the winning spot-kick, as Italy extended their unbeaten run to 33 games to set up a clash with either England or Denmark in Sunday’s final at the same ground.
Embattled forward Morata has now scored more goals at the European Championships than any other Spain player (six), overtaking Fernando Torres’ five goals. In fact, Morata became the first ever Spain player to score for club and country at Wembley.
Morata is also in rarefied company as the second player to scored three or more times in multiple Euros after Cristiano Ronaldo, who has done so on three occasions.
“He has an abductor problem. It really says a lot about his personality that despite that he wanted to take a penalty. He’s gone through some tough times during this tournament but he was brilliant,” said Luis Enrique.
“He really created a lot of uncertainty in the Italian ranks, he scored of course, so he was excellent. I haven’t seen him because he’s had to go to doping control. I was able to see Jordi Alba, but I’ll go and see him now.
After Spain failed to progress from a semi-final at a major tournament (World Cup and Euros) for the first time in their history, Luis Enrique said: “I’d say that it would be an A- for my players, it would be an A+ had we won. We’ve been speaking about how we want to play at the Euros for many months.
“The players really bought into that and they did a wonderful job of it. I have no complaints. Really, I just want to congratulate my players. We’ve shown that we are a team and that we are going to continue doing that. Now it’s important for us to rest while the rest of the teams compete and we’ll see each other again at future training camps.”
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