Las Palmas starlet Alberto Moleiro – ‘People always compare me to Pedri, but we’re very different players’

“We’re very different in the way we play,” declares Alberto Moleiro, who has been lazily compared to the boy in the year above for the last three seasons or so. As it happens, the boy is Pedri, and there’s no bitterness from the Las Palmas playmaker, but there is a calm confidence and defiance in his words. Moleiro believes he is good enough to make his own name, rather than hanging onto the tail of someone else’s.

“People have compared me to Pedri, he also played for Las Palmas, he left a year before I started playing, it’s only natural that people compare us, and I feel proud that people do so,” Moleiro tells Football España.

“But we’re very different in the way we play. I like a lot of players, Pedri, Fermin from Barcelona, any player that likes the ball, players that are technically gifted, I can’t give you many names, but that type of player,” he replies when asked for the ones he likes the most.

The 20-year-old is sharing a dressing room with Fermin Lopez this week, after the two were called up for the under-21 Spain squad by Santi Denia. All three are reminders that development is not linear by any means.

Pedri burst onto the scene as a 17-year-old, quickly establishing himself as one of the best players on the planet, and yet is probably having the hardest season of the trio, his future surrounded in a heavy injury fog.

Lopez on the other hand has just signed his first major contract. He was an afterthought for the Barcelona academy, until Xavi Hernandez thought about him preseason. A successful season with Linares in the third tier was believed to have earned the 20-year-old another with Barca Atletic, but now he’s taking pointers from Ilkay Gundogan and assists from Robert Lewandowski – all in the space of nine months.

Moleiro was touted to be the next Pedri at 16 but is having a much more sensible introduction to the professional game, gradually finding a spot in the line-up in Segunda, and playing an important part in their promotion last season. Without overplaying his impact, Moleiro’s creativity has become crucial for the Canary Islanders, with their season win percentage jumping over 10% with him in the team.  The number 10 on his back has been earned. He’s not short of advice from Barcelona veterans either.

“It’s true that Sandro Ramirez for example has helped me a lot, he’s very good both on and off the pitch. Munir El Haddadi, Sandro, these are people with vast experience, and they help us a lot. They tell us not to worry, just to play the way we know how to play, because that will help us to do our best.”

Defender Mika Marmol is another graduate from La Masia, one of four, while Mexican Julian Araujo has been sent to Las Palmas to ground him in the basics expected at Barcelona. Manager Francisco Javier Garcia Pimienta is another who knows the Blaugrana methodology inside out, but Las Palmas have prioritised the technical game that gives them an iron grip on the ball long before so many Barcelona connections sprang up.

Only the Catalan giants have more possession on average than Pio Pio. Moleiro has been schooled it, while Managing Director Patricio Vinayo says ‘tiki-taka’ was on the Canary Islands long before it colonised the world. Having the ball just comes naturally in Gran Canaria, it wouldn’t make sense for them to approach matches without it.

“It’s true that the academy at Las Palmas know that they need to follow the style of the Canary Islands,” Moleiro says.

“They want players who want the ball, who compete well, that are very technical, very skilful. Tonono, the director at the academy, knows in his bones that in order to produce top talents, this is the way they need to work. They need to develop the young players in order to take them to the elite, as happened with myself, with Pedri, and many more I could name.”

Why is it that Moleiro, under-21 teammate Sergi Cardona and young central defender Juanma Herzog choose Las Palmas over other options? Even over Tenerife, where Moleiro, Pedri and Herzog all hail from?

“I think that when Las Palmas knock on their door, players won’t think twice, because they know that we focus on young players, developing young players and playing a brand of football which is technical and nice to watch.”

That style, that aesthetic, has became an existential debate for a while in football, as every club from Swansea to Sassuolo pursued it after Spain conquered three international tournaments in a row.

Pep Guardiola always maintained that it was not vanity, but the best use of the resources at Barcelona. It has proven more effective for Las Palmas than the sides that have gone for more traditional approaches at avoiding relegation. Granted their defensive record has suffered in their last few games, but it remains the fifth-best.

Sticking to the same style, Las Palmas’ adaptation to Primera has barely seen them miss a beat, with the Islanders on track to survive comfortably. Las Palmas came into the league with the second-lowest salary limit in La Liga, and the truth is, neither Moleiro nor Las Palmas are feeling the jump much.

“This jump from Segunda to Primera, they are different divisions, there are less spaces in La Liga, but the teams in Segunda are technically really good, and you know that teams can hurt you with the ball. I wouldn’t say there is a very big difference between the two. Maybe there are more spaces in Segunda.”

Leading the way is top scorer and captain Kirian Rodriguez. Falling in line behind him isn’t difficult, and the size of the hurdle was put firmly into perspective by Kirian’s battle with cancer, which he took as coolly as he receives the ball.

“Last year was hard for all of us, but he was the first one to pick us up and encourage us actually, his mentality was amazing, his attitude, to overcome what he did, it’s incredible. He’s a top player, and it’s incredible what he has done.”

“His attitude from the beginning has been amazing, his level has been great, and he deserves it all. He’s been chosen in the preliminary squad for Spain, and I hope he goes. He deserves it, I have a great relationship with him, and I’m very happy to see the things that are happening to him.”

It all looks set for a happy ending. At this rate it will take little time for Moleiro to shrug off the Pedri tagline. There’s an acknowledgement on a club level of the Barcelona comparison, and an awareness that the above only fuels the connection. But maybe if Pio Pio continue in the same vein, Las Palmas will be inextricably linked to the ball beyond their own beaches too. Moleiro could be flying the flag.

Watch UD Las Palmas in LALIGA EA SPORTS on Viaplay, available in the UK on Sky, Virgin TV, Amazon Prime Video and via streaming.

The post Las Palmas starlet Alberto Moleiro – ‘People always compare me to Pedri, but we’re very different players’ appeared first on Football España.

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