Football: Versatile Pedro offers variety

Chelsea hope Pedro, who scored 99 goals in six seasons for Barca, will add pep to a team lacking attacking imagination.
Chelsea hope Pedro, who scored 99 goals in six seasons for Barca, will add pep to a team lacking attacking imagination.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Spaniard can not only assume different attacking roles, he is also a proven scorer

LONDON • The role awaiting Pedro Rodriguez at Chelsea following his €30 million (S$46.7 million) move from Barcelona might be likened to that of a drummer for Spinal Tap.

The life expectancy of new wingers under Jose Mourinho has proved brief - as Kevin de Bruyne, Andre Schuerrle, Mohamed Salah and Juan Cuadrado will testify. But Pedro is different from those who have been drummed quickly out of Stamford Bridge.

Mourinho's frustration with the quartet - the first two sold to Wolfsburg, the third loaned to Fiorentina, then Roma, the fourth on the verge of a move to Juventus - was that none could adapt to his relentless on-pitch demands or the intense competition for places.

Pedro is accustomed to that. He has won it all - the World Cup, the European Championship, three Champions League crowns, five Spanish Primera Liga titles - while remaining in the shadows with Barcelona and Spain.

In the starting XI one week, out the next, pushed between one role and another, switched left, right and centre, he is one big-money signing who will not arrive at Chelsea expecting to be the star.

As Pep Guardiola said of Pedro during his first season in charge of Barcelona, when the forward switched between the first team and the club's B team: "I was unfair on him and he never complains. He scores for the B team and comes back (to first-team training) on Monday as happy as anything."

Pedro's appeal goes far beyond his professionalism, versatility and character. He is a quick, two-footed, intelligent, dynamic, industrious, spirited player - part winger, part inside-forward.

He is not used to patrolling a flank in the up-and-down manner that Mourinho asks his wide players to do, but he is fit, willing and disciplined enough to try to adapt.

The 28-year-old also scores goals and could lead the line given Diego Costa's hamstring problems and Radamel Falcao's unconvincing form in the Premier League.

Pedro has 16 goals in 51 appearances for Spain and 99 in 321 appearances for Barcelona - many of them as a substitute. In fact, since 2009-10, only Lionel Messi (317) has been involved in more La Liga goals for Barcelona than Pedro (93, including 35 assists). Last season, Pedro averaged a goal every 258 minutes, which was more productive than Oscar and Willian.

Pedro is not a player who would be expected to elevate a team single-handedly. But he will help to give Chelsea a versatility and a variety that they lacked among their attacking options last season.

"I am very happy to be here. I am very excited to start my adventure at Chelsea and I am here to keep winning titles," he said yesterday after signing a four-year deal.

"Thanks to the club and the supporters for giving me the opportunity to put the blue shirt on."

Former Arsenal and Barcelona star Thierry Henry immediately hailed Pedro, whom he played alongside at the Nou Camp for three seasons, as a great signing.

"The perfect team-mate, the perfect professional - he is that guy," the Frenchman told Sky Sports.

"He pressures from the front, but he's also the player that any manager would love to have. You know what you're going to get with Pedro, always 100 per cent."

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2015, with the headline 'Versatile Pedro offers variety'. Print Edition | Subscribe