Yeremy Pino: Villarreal's new hope
Yeremy Jesús Pino Santos was only 18 years and 2 days old when he was brought off the bench in a 5-3 Europa League victory against Sivasspor in October 2020 and it was a blistering start to his Villarreal career. Three days later, Unai Emery granted the youngster from Canarias his LaLiga debut in a 0-0 draw away at Cádiz and his first goal came four days after that when the eventual Europa League champions left Qarabağ as 3-1 victors. He was only just getting started.
Recently rewarded with a contract extension that prolongs his stay with Villarreal until June 2027, Yeremy Pino is a youthful and exuberant right-winger from the municipality of Las Palmas, and he is consistently showing why he is a talent worth getting excited about.
Standing at just 1.72 metres (5ft 8in) and weighing 63kg (139lbs), Yeremy already boasts the physical qualities that suit the position in which he plays; such characteristics mean he has a particularly low centre of gravity, helping propel his pace, dribbling, flair, acceleration and agility, along with the added bonuses of an eye for goal and a surprisingly impressive defensive work rate.
At such a tender age, the teenager displays genuine versatility, and Emery has not shied away from utilising Pino down both flanks and up top, stepping up whenever called upon but especially in the absence of Gerard Moreno and Arnaut Danjuma. His flexibility and versatility at such a young age adds to his profile, never looking out of his depth despite his lack of experience.
It’s clear that Pino’s primary aptitude is his dribbling as he attempts 6.09 dribbles on average per 90 minutes, completing 3.45 of them which leaves him significantly ahead of the league average. Additionally, these metrics further complement Pino’s excellence in progressive runs per 90, as last season he upheld the healthy average of 3.66 per game, positioning the 19-year-old close to the top of the charts in LaLiga.
The statistics are one thing, but the simple eye-test is proof enough – Yeremy’s talent on the ball is clear as day, and he’s as electric as they come. He has shown that he is capable of driving from halfway, but if he’s allowed to affect the game when in the final third, that’s when the opposition are truly in danger. Pino enjoys cutting inside upon reaching the box and here he’s effective at beating his man to create an opportunity for himself or a teammate. Pino’s rate of touches in the attacking penalty area has drastically increased since he burst on to the scene as he averages 5.30 per 90, again settling Pino amongst the best in the league in this area.
One of the things which make Yeremy unique and compete is his remarkable defensive ethos, giving him an uncommon trait that most wingers, especially in LaLiga, do not have in their repertoire. Emery’s Villarreal generally oscillates between a high press and a mid-block, with Yeremy being the engine in both systems.
For a winger, his defensive figures are staggering: 18.61 pressures, 26.08 duels, 5.94 interceptions, 7.82 defensive duels, 3.56 recoveries and 2.08 tackles per 90. While Pino’s high press isn’t his greatest asset, maintaining the structure of the team and tracking back are two areas in which he excels. Pino and Juan Foyth have become a formidable force on Villarreal’s right-hand side, fortifying the flank and ensuring that it is extremely hard to breach.
Pino’s statistics show that he isn’t the most prolific of passers, which could usually be read to mean that his passing ability is not one of his greatest weapons, yet a deeper dive into the figures reveals a slightly nuanced picture.
Yeremy exercises above-average percentile rankings in smart, key, through and accurate passes per 90, with 82.59% of his passes finding their target, 1.73 smart passes, 0.61 key passes and 1.32 through passes per 90. It’s also worth noting that Pino is only in his second season in professional football at first-team level and has already shown progression in setting his teammates up as much as finishing moves off himself.
Overall, his passing is relatively safe, being used in quick combinations on the flanks and lay-offs with the periodic switch. His confidence, maturity and quality are really epitomised by his lack of carelessness at such a young age, something that is often a problem for youngsters in the fast-paced modern game. Yeremy is not a player who is desperately seeking to prove himself or impress the crowd with flash moves, tricks or skills. He lets his talent speak for itself.
Luis Enrique is a strong advocate for integrating the next generation of players into the senior national team at an early age, and Yeremy’s performances in yellow earned the youngster his first call-up to La Roja in late 2021. He made his debut in October 2021, 12 months after his professional debut, making an appearance off the bench against Italy in the Nations League while his team were maintaining a 2-0 lead. Leonardo Bonucci’s sending off earlier in the night granted Pino the license to show off his qualities at international level at the first time of asking.
People outside of the Villarreal fanbase are now starting to acknowledge the sparkling talent that the Yellow Submarine have on their hands – Pino has now broken into that national team, he’s causing problems in the Champions League and also keeping the silky Samuel Chukwueze on the bench, even when he’s fit.
The future is bright for the 19-year-old winger as he adds incisiveness to a Villarreal side that requires further end-product beyond the likes of Gerard Moreno and Arnaut Danjuma and a Spain team that is in dire need of a creative spark and an inventive outlet. He truly is a new hope for both club and country, and everything suggests he will maxinise his potential. This teenager has everything and more to be one of the best in LaLiga, and even the world one day.
Keep track of Yeremy's progress with us at @LaLigaLowdown on Twitter.