Meet Pedro Rodriguez, the man coveted by both Barcelona and Manchester United
“If Pedro was Brazilian, he’d be called Pedrinho and we wouldn’t have enough money to afford him.”
Former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola had little but positivity for Pedro – full name Pedro Eliezer Rodriguez Ledesma – in 2011. It aptly sums up the Catalan winger’s career. Despite the Spanish international winning every trophy attainable before his 23rd birthday, Pedro has been under-appreciated everywhere outside Catalonia. It is unsurprising considering that a certain diminutive Argentinian also plies his trade at the Spanish club.
Born in Tenerife, Pedro joined La Masia, the prestigious youth academy of Barcelona, at the age of seventeen in 2005 – a late bloomer seeing that the majority of youth joins the academy before school-leaving age. If it seemed that Pedro would be unable to pick up the Barcelona way at such a stage in his development, then this was just the first hurdle in a career filled with challenges.
Indeed, the Spaniard wasn’t fazed by the challenge and became a mainstay in the Barcelona B team – making 37 appearances and scoring seven goals in his first season. Pedro’s efforts earned a first team debut in 2008, although the step up in class meant that he played just seven minutes over the next two campaigns.
When Guardiola was appointed Barcelona coach in May 2008 Pedro was one of the first players, along with Sergio Busquets, to be thrown into the spotlight by the former youth team manager. Despite receiving discouraging advice about Pedro from the academy staff, Guardiola’s immense faith in the player’s abilities and his distinct plans for the young winger prevailed.
Pedro repaid his manager’s trust and sparkled during Barcelona’s treble-winning season of 2009/10, enjoying the best conversation rate of any player in La Liga. The Spaniard also became the first player to score a goal in six different competitions that season, justifying Guardiola’s risk. Pedro thrived during his mentor’s trophy–laden years – a remarkable period in Blaugrana history. The player scored 45 goals during a golden spell between 2009 and 2011.
Guardiola’s departure precipitated regression among several Barcelona players, notably Pedro. Tata Martino had little trust in the winger and then the Luis Enrique era brought a series of particularly poor performances. High-quality additions, such as Neymar and Luis Suarez, certainly improved Barcelona, but further limited the Spanish World Cup winner’s chances. Arda Turan reinforces Pedro’s second-choice status at Camp Nou.
With a point to prove, there is no doubt that Pedro is in dire need of a fresh start.
Throughout the summer, Pedro has been linked with a host of clubs – nearly all of them in the English Premier League. The Liverpool Echo reported Pedro as Brendan Rodgers’s ideal replacement for Raheem Sterling back in June while earlier this summer the Telegraph noted Jose Mourinho’s fondness for the player. The flurry of speculation has left a sense of collective confusion about where the Spaniard will actually land.
It was little surprise that reports soon surfaced of Manchester United entering the race for Pedro, with the Mirror first noting Louis Van Gaal’s apparent interest in the winger as a replacement for PSG-bound Angel Di Maria. In recent days, United’s interest has ramped up, with talks reportedly held between the Spaniard’s entourage and the United hierarchy.
United’s interest in the player might disappoint some fans looking for a marquee signing in the wake of Di Maria’s impending departure. Nevertheless, the Spanish treble winner should prove to be a strong addition to the United squad. Not least because, after dropping to a squad position at Barcelona, Pedro would be greatly satisfied with the integral role on offer to him in Manchester.
Pedro’s qualities could be very important for Manchester United
Despite a dip in form, the La Masia graduate has the qualities associated with a typical United winger. A return of 11 goals and 6 assists last season isn’t impressive, but given that Pedro started only 16 games, his numbers come with some context.
Similar to recent United signing, Memphis Depay, Pedro is blessed with pace and his acquisition would provide Ashley Young with strong competition down the left. Pedro’s movement on the pitch is particularly intelligent, which normally means a strong flow of chances for his teammates. Wayne Rooney would certainly relish this aspect of Pedro’s game.
The Spanish international’s key strength is his ability to pop up with decisive goals when needed most. For example, Pedro’s performance in the 2009 Domestic Supercup against Athletic Bilbao and a winner scored against Shakhtar Donetsk in Uefa Supercup of that year.
The winger’s mercurial nature, combined with an ability to be effective in any position across the forward line, explains Van Gaal’s interest. Indeed, there is a strong resemblance to the style of Van Gaal’s German protégé, Thomas Muller.
The presence of fellow Spaniards, Ander Herrera and Juan Mata means that the bedding-in period usually required for foreign signings could be minimised. A few days past his 28th birthday, Pedro has just entered his theoretical peak years and brings vast experience due to his presence in Barcelona’s remarkable period of dominance.
There are, of course, certain facets of Pedro’s game that need to be fine-tuned for the Premier League, with his lack of strength an area that needs to be worked on if he is to succeed in the physically imposing English game.
Pedro will never be the player who sells out a stadium, but his worth to United negates that observation. He is the type of player who offers much in a collective and should have no problem fitting into Van Gaal’s system. Those at Barcelona have never doubted his talents, but Pedro has perennially remained in the shadows of more storied players. A move to the bright lights of Old Trafford could allow the boy from Tenerife to finally step out of the shadows.