Pellegri, 16, gives Genoa something to celebrate

Reuters
Pellegri had already become the joint-youngest player to play in Serie A when he made his debut in December at the age of 15 years and 280 days.
Reuters
Imaginechina

Genoa forward Pietro Pellegri celebrates after scoring against Lazio during their Italian Serie A match at Luigi Ferraris Stadium in Genoa on September 17, 2017. Genoa lost 2-3 despite a brace from Pellegri, who became the youngest player to score twice in a Serie A game.

Genoa has had little to celebrate in the last few months but 16-year-old striker Pietro Pellegri has given Italy's oldest club at least one reason to be cheerful.

He became the youngest player to score twice in a Serie A match when he was on target in the 2-3 home defeat by Lazio on Sunday, bringing tears to the eyes of his father Marco who is the assistant coach and watched from the bench. Marco never made it out of Genoa's youth system as a player but was hired as the club's team manager in April.

Pellegri had already become the joint-youngest player to play in Serie A when he made his debut in December at the age of 15 years and 280 days, and in May became the first player born in 2001 to score when he was on target against AS Roma.

His performance on Sunday led Corriere dello Sport to label him 'The Italian Mbappe' after 18-year-old Kylian, who joined Paris Saint-Germain from Monaco in August for a huge fee.

Mbappe joined initially on loan but PSG will complete a permanent deal in 12 months' time worth about 180 million euros (US$214.79 million), which would make the exciting France international the world’s second most expensive player.

Genoa coach Ivan Juric, whose future is in doubt because of poor results over the past few months, tried to keep a lid on expectations, saying Pellegri must focus on improving.

"Pellegri is a lad who works really hard, he really wants to improve his movement on the pitch," said Juric, whose team has taken one point from its opening four games.

"He's 16 years old and it will not be a problem to manage him. He has great power, when shooting and when running."

"Last year, he never attacked the penalty area, he wanted to play with his back to goal. We've worked really hard on this aspect," added Juric.

"He still has huge potential for improvement and he can do that if he keeps working the way he is now."

In fact, the 16-year-old sensation wouldn't mind taking advantage of his sudden stardom among classmates, The Associated Press reported.

The problem is, he's being home-schooled.

"I can't even be the cool guy at school," Pellegri lamented after the Lazio match on Sunday.

At 16 years, 112 days, Pellegri easily beat previous record-holder Silvio Piola, who was 17 years, 104 days in 1931 when he set the mark.

Numerous records

Piola went on to numerous records and with 274 goals still tops the all-time career list in Serie A.

While the expectations are soaring for Pellegri — who doesn't look 16 when he stands at 1.96 meters and 78 kilograms — he's keeping things in perspective.

"I'm keeping quiet and I'm not expecting more playing time," Pellegri said. "With the two goals at Marassi, under the northern end (where Genoa's hard-core "ultra" fans sit), I've fulfilled a dream.

"One goal I'm dedicating to the fans, because I'm Genovese like them. And one for my dad."

While he grew up admiring Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Pellegri wears No. 64 on his shirt in honor of his father.

It's been quite a year for Pietro, who last December matched the record for the youngest player to debut in the top division — at 15 years, 280 days. That equaled Amedeo Amadei's mark in 1937 set at Roma.

Pellegri celebrated his first start on the final day of last season by giving Genoa an early lead over Roma, nearly spoiling the final match of Roma captain Francesco Totti's career.

Now Pellegri has three goals in four Serie A appearances in a total of 131 minutes, capitalizing on all three of his shots on goal.

So it's not surprising that clubs like Manchester United, Juventus, and Inter Milan have reportedly made offers for Pellegri.

"We're not letting him go. We're enjoying him," coach Juric said.

Up next for Pellegri and Genoa is another home game against Chievo Verona on Wednesday.

In the meantime the closest Pellegri has come to showing off with schoolmates was a short walk around town with his teammate and role model Raffaele Palladino.

"I've been rooting for you for a while dear golden boy," Palladino wrote on Instagram. "Now keep your feet firmly on the ground and keep your eyes focused on the future."


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