Ever since 2008, when Pep Guardiola promoted Pedro Rodriguez to Barcelona’s first team, it was clear he was never going to be considered their key player. Despite scoring a number of important goals, he was always destined to play second fiddle to the likes of Henry, Sanchez, Villa, Neymar, and, of course, Messi. However, Pedro still managed to be crucial to Barcelona’s success, being effective when it mattered the most.
In the 2008/09 season, Pedro succeeded in being the first player in history to score at least one goal in six different club competitions in a single season (the Spanish Primera, Copa del Rey, the Spanish Super Cup, the European Super Cup, the Champions League and the Club World Cup). The Canary Island native scored 99 goals and had 63 assists in the Barca shirt.
He scored in each of the five finals he played in (meaning he scored in a Champions League final, a Spanish and Euro Super Cup, Copa del Rey and Club World Champ final). Perhaps it is most fitting that his last goal for Barcelona was in a final – the winner against Sevilla in the 5:4 Euro Super Cup thriller. Pedro, now 28, despite being an incredibly useful player, particularly in the big games, could not fight his way into Barcelona’s starting XI ahead of arguably the best attacking trio in the world of Messi, Suarez and Neymar. Due to his age and unenviable position in Barcelona, Pedro had to search for game time elsewhere and unwillingly leave his boyhood club – he is now in the stage of his career when he needs to play regularly, especially if he wants to find himself in Spain’s EURO 2016 squad.
Pedro was expected to join Man United, with the transfer hanging in the air throughout the whole summer, until the Red Devils opted to back out of the deal in the very last minute. The move was swiftly intercepted by the Premier League champions, and, after a day of negotiating, Pedro found himself a Chelsea player. Van Gaal was quoted saying that the Pedro transfer was the easiest because of the player’s release clause but that he was never interested in signing him (despite having previously identified Pedro as the type of player he was looking for). Mourinho added him to his starting eleven right away and Pedro scored a goal and bagged an assist on his debut.
So, what does Pedro bring to the team? Thierry Henry described him as ‘the perfect teammate’ – the Spaniard is very professional and devoted to the team, without trying to put himself in the spotlight. He learned his trade under the guidance of Pep Guardiola, a very methodical manager who insists on having every aspect of the game under control. Pedro is used to putting pressure on the opposition (according to Pep, forwards are the first line of defence), something Mourinho will be happy to take advantage of. Henry described how Guardiola made them think about their responsibilities in every situation – if Messi had the ball, you needed to know what to do, the same went for if the center back had the ball or if they were out of possession. Pedro was brought up in this environment and was always the one to give 100% – he would press forward and make himself available in the attack, but would never forget to back track and help out in defense.
His work rate will be highly appreciated by Mourinho, as he likes to devote his players and his tactics to the result, even if it means playing defensive and unattractive football – something a player with Pedro’s level of discipline will have no trouble coping with. Furthermore, his old teammate, Fabregas is in the team, which should help him settle in and Chelsea fans can expect the two of them to form a partnership, with Fabregas distributing the ball and Pedro making runs behind the opposition defense.
Rodriguez is one of the most decorated currently active players, having won 20 major trophies with Barcelona and two with Spain – and it is a real shame that this player has never been as appreciated as he ought to have been, because he played in a team where other player took all the glory. His switch to Chelsea could see him add a Premier League trophy to his already impressive collection.
Pedro’s arrival at Chelsea means the champions strengthened themselves further in their bid to retain the title, but it also leaves us with a question – if a player who struggled for game time could saunter straight into the first team of the Premier League champions, how much stronger is Barcelona from the rest of Europe?