Coming from the town of Las Palmas on the island of Gran Canaria, with its 378,000 inhabitants, Yéremi Pino was born only one month and five days before current Barcelona star Pedri was introduced to the world in the very same town.
In October 2021, he was given his national team debut by Luis Enrique, becoming the youngest Villarreal player ever to play for Spain in history. He did so alongside his neighbour, Pedri, who now plays only a few hours away, up the east coast of Spain.
Neither player has yet celebrated their 20th birthday, but both are among Spain’s brightest hopes already. Pedri is well known at Barcelona, but Villarreal’s breakout star is not quite so recognisable.
Who is Yéremi Pino?
Villarreal winger Yéremi Pino is a 19-year-old who is setting La Liga alight with his talent. Operating primarily on the right flank, either in a midfield four or, at times, in a more advanced position as part of a front three, he is also capable of playing on the left. At times, Pino has played in a central role through the middle and looked comfortable, though his natural position is on the right of attack.
He made his Villarreal debut under Unai Emery against Sivasspor as part of the Yellow Submarine’s victorious Europa League run last season and hasn’t looked back since. He joined the club at the age of 14, turning down the chance to join Barcelona in favour of a move to the Estadio de la Cerámica, in part due to the route for progression into the first team, and that gamble has paid off.
Now, Pino finds himself establishing a regular role, starting around 60% of games for Emery’s side this season. In the process, he’s battering records. Among his standout statistics is that, against Espanyol in February, he became the youngest player to score a first-half hat-trick in one of Europe’s top five leagues since Ousmane Dembélé in 2016. What’s more, he didn’t stop there and went on to score four that day.
Yeremy Pino's game by numbers vs. Espanyol:
100% take-ons completed
11 touches in opp. box
7 duels won
6 ball recoveries
4 Big Chances
4 shots on target
That's insane. 😉 pic.twitter.com/A15IWBMuFc
— Squawka (@Squawka) February 27, 2022
As that last stat may already suggest, Yéremi’s finishing is remarkable. He has a natural ability to get himself into goalscoring positions through his movement and well-timed runs, and once he’s there, his composure belies his age.
In two seasons of top-flight football, he has scored 9 goals from an xG of 7.41, and has been consistently achieving a conversion rate of one goal per five shots at 22.5%. Such a percentage is not too dissimilar to Villarreal’s star attacker Gerard, who scores with 23.7%, and exceeds La Liga top scorer Karim Benzema who sits at 20.5%.
This season, he has established himself firmly among LaLiga’s elite. His goals and assist tally in LaLiga for the campaign sits at 10, which is third in the competition behind only Real Madrid’s Vinícius Júnior and Atlético Madrid’s João Félix among other under-23 players.
He’s also involved across the board in attack. With 107 touches in the box, 5.72 per 90, he ranks third in the competition among players of his age bracket and 17th overall, and has a reliable end product. To date, he has created four assists this season in LaLiga, ranking him joint-third between players under 23, showing his influence in Villarreal’s build-up play in the final third.
His dribbling ability is also impressive. With 2.99 dribbles per 90, he is among the most prolific dribblers within Villarreal’s squad, and brings great value to Emery’s squad with that attribute and his blistering pace. He is crucial in the transition, and that is why the former Arsenal coach has opted for Pino in games where the counter-attack has been crucial, such as the second leg against Juventus of this season’s Champions League run.
It’s just a shame he missed the first leg of their semi-final against Liverpool and has also been ruled out of the return fixture.
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Defensively, it’s clear that Yéremi still has work to do. This has been the biggest attribute holding him back, particularly under a coach as meticulous and organised as Emery. While he is happy to press from the front, he can be found wanting when tracking back and is occasionally reluctant to challenge.
His 5.72 duels won per 90 is a figure slightly below Villarreal’s average, while he also commits 1.55 fouls per game. That is what has held Yéremi back, with Emery reluctant to start him in games where defensive resolution has been essential.
As a result, across Villarreal’s six biggest fixtures of the 2022 calendar year against Juventus, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid, he has played only 97 minutes, or 26.9% of the total available (not including the games he missed through injury). It’s evident that while Emery is a fan, Yéremi still has work to do to truly convince him.
There is good reason to be optimistic here though. Pino’s average number of fouls per 90 has fallen from 1.69 to 1.55 from last season to this. In doing so, he’s becoming more intelligent in how he engages in defensive actions, prioritising a high press but being smart in when he looks to directly tackle a player.
What next for Yéremi Pino?
In November 2021, Villarreal secured the future of their young prodigy by tying him up with a six-year contract running to 2027. The new deal included a substantial increase in his release clause, from €30 million to €80 million, as well as a three-year extension in length.
Real Madrid have shown a strong interest in his services for some time, but he has also caught the eye of several Premier League clubs, including Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal and Newcastle United.
Throughout his career to date, Yéremi has shown patience and maturity that indicates that he wants to be playing regular first-team football, even if that means playing for a smaller team like Villarreal rather than a European giant.
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“Villarreal made me a good offer and they believed in me,” he said when explaining his decision to choose his current team ahead of Barcelona. That determination to establish himself and the ambition shown by the club’s excellent Champions League progress this season, are likely to have persuaded him that his short-to-medium-term future lies in the small town of Vila-real.
“Players at Villarreal get chances in the first team, and a good example is Yéremi. Then we can give them opportunities to play at the highest level, and we give him the conditions to help him to perform and to earn money. Just take a look at some of those who have left when they’re young and not had those opportunities, we want to keep players like Yéremi while maintaining an economic balance,” Villarreal president Fernando Roig said shortly before the teenager signed a new contract in October 2021.
The club’s policy is, and has long been, that they will not retain a player against his wishes. But at present, it seems to be the case that Roig, Emery and Pino are all on the same page: Yéremi’s development is best served at Villarreal.