Chelsea's Pedro made a Camp Nou return to bid farewell to Barcelona
Chelsea’s newest winger Pedro, having helped the Blues to a scintillating 3-2 victory against West Brom returned to Barcelona to say his goodbyes to fans and team-mates of the club that had nurtured him as a player for nearly 20 years. He interacted not only with his friends but the media as well who he answered frankly and with respect to both his former employers and his current ones.
As his family appeared among the crowd, the Spaniard had an emotional farewell during which he spoke about what spurred his decision to leave and in turn received a heartwarming response from the Spanish club and its players who were all present to wish their former team-mate luck for his foray in English football, where he has already begun well.
Pedro began his illustrious footballing journey at the esteemed La Masia, graduating from the class of 1987 which included the likes of his current team-mate Cesc Fabregas and Barcelona defender Gerard Pique among others. The Tenerife-born forward then made his way through the Barcelona C and B teams to finally break through to the first team in the 2007-08 season.
He's been a fixture in the Barcelona squad since and made quite an impact, gathering 321 appearances for the Catalan club and scoring 99 times in the process, often scoring important goals like the one that recently won them the European Super Cup in the 5-4 thriller against Sevilla.
Why he left Barcelona
As expected, Pedro started off the farewell press conference by thanking the club, he called Barcelona the place he had always dreamed of playing for and thanked everyone for making his “dream come true”. He also expressed his gratitude towards the management for understanding his decision and treating it with respect, as reported by Football Espana.
The departing Spaniard said: “It's been many years since I arrived at La Masia and came up through the ranks so I could reach the first team and realise my dream of playing for the team I'd always wanted to represent since childhood.
“I've always tried to give everything in training and matches, learning from players like [Carles] Puyol, [Andres] Iniesta, [Victor] Valdes, Xavi [Hernandez].”
Pedro then went on to explain the reasoning behind his move away from the club where he had grown up as a footballer.
“At the end of the season, I realised I wanted to be ambitious and earn more minutes. I saw that it was difficult to do so [at Barca] and knew it was possible to leave,” he said.
He went on to add that he did consider the option to stay, saying: “I did think I could stay for a few more years because I knew I wouldn't experience the same realities at another club, but on the other hand [leaving] was an opportunity.
“I spoke with the President and eventually joined a club I liked as soon as I arrived and was excited [to join them].
“It was weird because I never thought I'd leave Barca, but I'm also happy to be faced with new challenges.
"I believe and hope I've conducted myself in the best possible way on and off the field. The fans loved me and I thank them for their support.”
Pedro’s difficult goodbye
Despite having put a lot of thought into his decision, the Spaniard had to take the hardest step in moving away from his footballing home. The 28-year-old said he would be sad to leave Barcelona but is happy about his involvement at the club and being taught and developed by them.
Also remembering the fans in his speech he said he would miss the moments he's had as a Barcelona player but that he had to leave to feel important again.
Pedro said: “The hardest part was making the decision to leave, leaving my club, my teammates, the fans I've met on the street and who love me.
“Last season was the one in which I suffered most. There was a lot of competition and it was sad for me, although retaining the fans' support was important.
“I had to leave because of the lack of continuity I had in the team. I wanted to feel important and play in the big games.”
Nonetheless, the La Masia graduate has retained his respect and love for the club as he told the Barcelona website that “Barça is the best club in the world”.
Interest from England
As it’s hardly unknown, there were several suitors looking for Pedro's signature when they found out he could be leaving the awesome fortress that is the Nou Camp. Many of those interested were based in England. Ultimately, the forward chose Chelsea and has made a stellar impact for them only having played a single game for the defending English champions.
As quoted by the Telegraph, Pedro spoke about the options he had, saying, Pedro said, “I had offers from other English clubs - Manchester United, City and Chelsea, who were the club that more rapidly resolved my transfer and the one that showed more interest in me.
“I'm very happy to be at Chelsea because it's a club that, like Barca, are fighting for titles. But I haven't gone to Chelsea just to work under (manager Jose) Mourinho, but also because London attracts me as a city and I have friends at Chelsea. I've had an incredible reception at Chelsea.”
Speaking earlier to Chelsea TV, Pedro admitted that speaking to Jose Mourinho and Fabregas convinced him that it was the right move to make. But he said he still hopes the best for Barcelona and his former team-mates.
He added: “I don't think Barca will miss me because they have plenty of quality players, but I will sure miss them, the players and the club. Of course I would have liked to have stayed at Barca and retire here.
"But I've taken a gamble because it's what I wanted. I wasn't going to stay here just to appear on the photo.”
A touching response from teammates
While the whole ordeal has been emotional for Pedro, his team-mates too responded in the same fashion with raucous applause and even chanting his name. Every Barcelona player was present as they bid goodbye to one of their own. Barcelona even made a video thanking the player and wishing him luck that they released when the move was announced.
Thank you for all what I lived and learnt in this club. Good luck and keep on the spell of success. pic.twitter.com/xNi3zxaGbK— Pedro Rodríguez (@_Pedro17_) August 24, 2015
Speaking about the prospect of facing them on the pitch being on opposite sides, according to the Telegraph, Pedro said: “I just hope I don't have to face Barca or step out at the Nou Camp wearing another jersey. It would be difficult, I wouldn't like it.”