A little over a year ago, Carles Pérez had yet to play a single game at professional level. By today’s standards, you could consider that a little late in the day for a player who’s now 22-years-old. If Pérez is stay in Rome long-term, this will not only be his first, but last and only mention on our U-23 rankings.
But that doesn’t reflect how effective he can become for the Giallorossi in the immediate and long-term future.
Number Seven: Carles Pérez
Position: Winger, Forward, Striker
Prior Club: Barcelona
Future Comparison: Eidur Gudjohnsen
Who Is He?
Making his professional debut in May 2019, and coming off the bench for would-be Roma player and Barcelona flop Malcom in the process, Pérez is a bullish and fast player who prides himself on his love of finishing. That love wouldn’t prove to be enough in a Barcelona shirt.
Though Pérez looked handy when put through on goal in his Barcelona B years, he would make eleven appearances in the first half of 2019-2020 for the senior Blaugrana team and rack up just the couple of goals on the way. It was a goal scored against Inter Milan in the Champions League that put him on the radar of European-wide scouts and, when Barcelona floated Pérez on the January transfer market “without explanation” (in the player’s own words), it was then up to the Catalonian forward to pick among suitors from around La Liga, Bundesliga... and one eager Portuguese coach pushing to bring Carles Pérez to Serie A.
Pérez used a series of 2020 pandemic-lockdown interviews to explain that Paulo Fonseca went into thorough detail on how he saw Pérez slotting into today’s Roma side. More than just being Nicolò Zaniolo’s interim replacement, Fonseca had designs on Pérez getting a real shot at regular first-team football.
And so Carles became the man that Roma stole from Barcelona for a cool €11 million.
What Can He Do?
Whatever you’d dream of a player doing in the final third is what Pérez can already do well enough, and he can only get better. Though he was willingly fielded on the left, through the middle behind the striker, and even up front as a striker himself in Barcelona, Pérez has found a groove in playing from the right side where he can cut in and shoot on his natural left foot. However, Pérez was explicit in saying he didn’t like just how wide he was shoved out right in Barcelona’s senior side.
He doesn’t like hugging the touchline, as he’s not a fan of looking over his shoulder while making runs to connect with a long ball over the top—something that inevitably happens more often than not when you’re far out wide. The Catalonian forward prefers to find space all along the final third, if that’s what it takes to receive short balls to feet from the midfield, and link up with his fellow attackers. Yeah, music to Paulo Fonseca’s ears.
So far we’ve seen the Roma-version Pérez peel off the last defender to beat offside traps and slot the ball in the back of the net, link up play anywhere from 30 yards into goal with his fellow forwards, cut inside and shoot whenever Roma need to keep the rival keeper honest, beat defenders in one-on-one duels, and even put classy through-balls over the top to assist team-mates.
Pérez also has a damn good delivery from corners. So who knows what he could do on free-kick duty?
What Can He Become?
Ok, so Carles isn’t exact the same physical stature nor did he have the same flair as the man above. But if Eidur Gudjohnsen had been born in one of football’s traditionally glorified nations, and not his native Iceland, you can be sure the press and award ceremonies would have made a far bigger deal about Gudjohnsen’s impact on the game.
Play him up front, slightly out wide or in a withdrawn role and he’d still find a way to put your team in the goals. His football IQ stayed right up there for so long that he even played defensive midfielder in his mid-thirties for Iceland. But he’ll be remembered for his ability to do absolutely everything in the final third.
To borrow a quote from The Big Lebowski: he “really tied the room together.” And strung several trophies into his cabinet, too.
Champions League winner, La Liga winner, Premier League winner, League Cup winner, treble winner. Eidur deserved every piece of silverware in his cabinet today. But born in Iceland he was, and so Gudjohnsen remained as understated in the game as Carles’ subtle influence in Rome so far.
As a modern day footballer, Carles Pérez’s game inevitably holds more athleticism to it than Gudjohsen’s flair. But as long as Pérez gets smarter about picking and timing his shots, there’s no reason the young forward can’t become one of the crucial cogs that shifts Roma into full gear.