Gaston Pereiro announced himself to PSV and the Eredivisie with a match winning brace against Ajax in 2015. The Uruguayan attacker has managed 10 goals in each of his four seasons in the Eredivisie while establishing himself as a player for the big stage. Other Uruguayans are well-immersed in the ‘garra charrua’ style, Pereiro is more laissez-faire which is why he has been in and out of the PSV starting line-up under Phillip Cocu and Mark Van Bommel. The 23-year-old with the Alvaro Recoba tattoo on his arm has a measured finishing ability to match his capacity to ghost past opponents and an innate sense of creativity in tight spaces. He has been deployed on the flanks, up front as well as in midfield as he is currently PSV’s creative fulcrum in an attacking midfield role behind Luuk De Jong.
The creative midfielder from Montevideo got his first start in a front three with Jurgen Locadia and Luciano Narsingh against Ajax as PSV were missing their talisman Luuk De Jong. A fiercely contested match against Ajax would have proved too big a stage for other players but Pereiro grasped the opportunity with aplomb. In the seventh minute, he played a one-two with Locadia to create some space in the Ajax box and fire over Jasper Cillessen into the roof of the Ajax net. In the 79th minute, he doubled his tally as he took on a Jorrit Hendrix through ball, cut past Jairo Riedewald and curled past Cillessen to seal a pivotal win for PSV. By the end of that month, Pereiro would have 4 goals for PSV as Cocu began to utilise the Uruguayan as his secret weapon.
PSV has historically been a safe-haven and stepping stone for Central and South Americans as Andres Guardado, Hector Moreno and Jong PSV striker coach, Ruud Van Nistelrooy formed a Spanish speaking contingent who helped Pereiro settle by taking him to dinners and helping him adapt to the rigours of Dutch football. Pereiro would continue his goalscoring exploits by netting a hat-trick against amateur club, SC Genemuiden in the KNVB Beker. Pereiro’s magnetic first touch, ability to turn on a six-pence and cold-bloodedly crisp finishing gave him the potential to be one of the Eredivisie’s most prominent forwards. However, he is never mentioned in the same terms as Hakim Ziyech or Hirving Lozano due to his work rate and inconsistency. His lethargic attitude does have its advantages as when PSV were missing penalties by the boat-load with Davy Propper and De Jong squandering opportunities from the spot, Pereiro showed calm and grace to define himself as PSV’s penalty taker.
Cocu would move Pereiro from the wing to central midfielder in order to challenge him to get more involved in play as the South American would also be dropped at times. Under Van Bommel, Pereiro has been used exclusively as a central attacking midfielder, given freedom to roam into the pockets to receive possession and move out wide into the channels to seek spaces. An integral facet of PSV’s build-up under Van Bommel are connections from centre-back Daniel Schwaab and deep-lying midfielder Pablo Rosario to Pereiro in the pockets. Pereiro thrives in tight spaces with his ability to skip past his man to earn a yard while he can also work quick combinations with teammates in approach play. Pereiro as a winger could normally be a passenger without possession as Cocu castigated the Uruguayan publicly for drifting in and out of games more than once.
When teams press PSV high, Pereiro is also tasked with dropping deep to help work the ball out of pressure while as PSV have found teams in rigid low blocks, Pereiro dropping deep has the opposite effect as he is most effective at working the ball in the pockets. The Uruguayan maestro has also developed as a dead ball threat as he has scored two opening day free-kicks against Utrecht in the last two years. Pereiro has an impressive 10 goals and 6 assists this season which belies the fact that he is PSV’s aforementioned penalty taker and has only played the full 90 minutes in 8 appearances this whole season. Erick Gutierrez and 17-year-old upstart Mohamed Ihatteren are competing for a role that was specifically carved out for the Uruguayan. PSV’s 2-2 draw at Heerenveen was a microcosm of Pereiro’s season as after the home side raced to a two-goal lead, Pereiro drew one back with an impeccable free-kick before he was replaced by Ihatteren immediately after. In that game, he managed 60 minutes as in the next week against Feyenoord, he only managed 45 as he was hauled off at half-time for 19-year-old Cody Gakpo.
Pereiro has all the requisite tools to be in the top tier of Eredivisie players while also displaying the calm on the biggest stage and in defining moments to carve out a fine career for himself in Europe but his consistency is lacking. His goal and assist to game ratio for PSV is phenomenal but the consistency in performances and the factor of his importance to the team does not back those statistics. He will enter the final year of his contract next season as there has been interest in the former Nacional player but not enough to lure him away from the Eredivisie. He will either sign a new contract with the club or PSV will look to cash in on him to recoup the 7-million-euro fee they paid for him.
Pereiro has only managed a measly 4 appearances for Oscar Tabarez’ Uruguay side as the tide on his international prospects seemed to be turning earlier this season when he scored 5 goals in 5 consecutive games for club and country. Uruguay have another Copa America campaign to prepare for in the summer as they would be a much feistier proposition with the creativity and invention of Pereiro, but it is not a given that he will be in the squad. As PSV’s form regressed to start 2019, Van Bommel has been shaking things up in the side in order to complement his first season as a professional manager with an Eredivisie title so Pereiro will need to string together good and consistent performances to help PSV win back to back Eredivisie titles.