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Perhaps we can be grateful for the way it ended. One of the lingering transfer sagas of the summer concluding with the excitement of Chelsea stealing Barcelona winger Pedro Rodriguez from under the noses of Manchester United, who he seemed set to join after 2 months of speculation.
A reluctance to play under the uncompromising hand of Van Gaal, of which his ex-teammate Victor Valdes is discovering the force of now, a desire to live in London, or how Van Gaal pulled the plug on the apparent £22 million move that looked so close to completion.
For the reasons of why Pedro chose Chelsea take your pick, although the personal intervention of Jose Mourinho and Cesc Fabregas, who both called the winger to convince him to opt for Stamford Bridge, seems the most likely explanation for the late change of mind.
Forced into action
Mourinho was probably forced into the call by the lacklustre 3-0 defeat at Manchester City, in which Chelsea, with Ramires and Willian, both greatly industrious players by trade but limited going forwards, fielded in attacking areas. Apart from a short spell in the second half in which they nearly fashioned an equaliser the visitor’s appeared oddly toothless in attack and chaotic in defence, compounding the concern caused by the cumbersome draw with Swansea on the opening day and the furore brought about by Mourinho’s personal vilification of Eva Carneiro.
Chelsea have added defensive reinforcement in Augsburg’s Baba Rahman but having only managed to sign the badly out-of-form Radamel Falcao and goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, who will be second fiddle to Thibaut Courtois, it has been a slow summer of recruitment as the Blues’ prepare for the defence of their title.
There were signs at City that the squad Mourinho had unwavering faith in last season, the Portuguese used the least amount of players as they strolled to the championship, had grown stale and was desperately in need of a sprinkling of stardust and energy.
Pedro, who won 20 trophies since breaking into the Barcelona first team in 2008 as well as the World Cup and European Championship with Spain, will no doubt provide that fresh impetus sought by Mourinho in Mohamed Salah and Juan Cuadrado but who both failed to deliver. Pedro will naturally provide the vigorous work off-the-ball that Mourinho craves in his players as well as pace and intelligence which will help Chelsea when tasked with breaking opponent lines.
Pep Guardiola said that Pedro was fundamental and vital to his side in doing just that and despite graduating into a team that contained Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto’o, before having to compete with David Villa, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alexis Sanchez, and now Luis Suarez and Neymar, the 28 year old has held his own against all of them to play a massive part in Barcelona’s recent history.
In his first full season with the first team Pedro scored in both the Spanish Supercopa, against Athletic Bilbao, and the UEFA Super Cup against Shakhtar Donetsk. He scored in both the semi-final and final of the Club World Cup that season, allowing for Guardiola’s wonderful side to hoover up all 6 trophies on offer in 2009. The unforgettable 5-0 rout of Real Madrid, Pedro scored. The 3-1 Champions League final win over Manchester United, Pedro scored. The 0-2 win at the Bernabeu that effectively sealed the title in 2011, Pedro scored. Extra-time in this year’s SuperCup, locked at 4-4 with Sevilla… guess who?
He got two goals in the Copa Del Rey triumph over Athletic Bilbao in 2012, Guardiola’s last game. The winger’s haul in finals is seven and he has a total of 99 across a seven year Barcelona career that took in 319 games. Whilst not able to influence a game with the brilliance possessed by Suarez, Neymar and Messi, hence why the number of starts declined to 15 last season and why Luis Enrique has decided to let him go, Chelsea will still wield a dangerous and versatile winger, a crisp finisher who will feed off direct balls played into the channel between centre-half and full-back.
The vision of Fabregas, with whom he already boasts a rapport from the Spain team and who has started this season amidst the malaise that set in towards the end of last term, will be one such benefactor.
Easing the scoring burden
As will Diego Costa who has also appeared to be enduring a hangover from last season in which hamstring trouble curtailed his progress. Pedro will help to ease the goal-scoring burden on Costa as well as aid in creating space for the likes of Oscar and Eden Hazard to move into. The capture of Pedro will certainly offer Chelsea’s forward line variety, as well as more flexibility with Mourinho now able to shift between 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 whilst leaving Willian and Ramires focussed on defensive duties.
On the evidence of Chelsea’s sluggish start to their title defence a signing of Pedro’s calibre was certainly required, though that is in contrast to Manchester United whose pursuit of the winger was always rather curious. Van Gaal’s decision to break off the deal was in all likelihood motivated by the re-emergence of Adnan Januzaj, United’s match-winner at Aston Villa.
With Januzaj, Memphis Depay settling in quickly and with Ashley Young, Juan Mata and Antonio Valencia all to factor in despite the sale of Angel Di Maria, United have a glut of options in wider areas, it is in centre-forward where they require strengthening and news of a £60 million bid for Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller made more sense than any courting of Pedro did.
“Operation Pedro” may have been pulled off with ruthless haste by Chelsea and he is likely to brighten the gloomy mood surrounding the Londoners, but the negotiating team of Mourinho, Fabregas and club director Marina Granovskaia should not have left it so late to get their man. If it wasn’t for United’s dallying, Chelsea could have lost the man they required to the club that didn’t really need him.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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