Thursday 30 March 2017

Chelsea's 'Operation Pedro' heist leaves Manchester United red-faced

Mourinho, Fabregas and Spaniard's girlfriend all involved in plot to lure Barca striker

Barcelona forward Pedro is poised to complete a £22million move to Chelsea after flying to London yesterday to complete a medical, just two days after the United executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, had travelled to Spain to try to close a deal
Barcelona forward Pedro is poised to complete a £22million move to Chelsea after flying to London yesterday to complete a medical, just two days after the United executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, had travelled to Spain to try to close a deal

Matt Law

The dramatic Chelsea signing of Pedro from under Manchester United's noses was masterminded by manager Jose Mourinho, director Marina Granovskaia, Cesc Fabregas and the midfielder's girlfriend, Daniella Semaan.

The Barcelona forward is poised to complete a £22million move to Chelsea after flying to London yesterday to complete a medical, just two days after the United executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, had travelled to Spain to try to close a deal.

But while Woodward was haggling with Barcelona, Chelsea were putting 'operation Pedro' into practice. Granovskaia conducted discreet negotiations with the Spanish club and, with the permission of Barcelona, Mourinho and Fabregas spoke directly to the forward.

With Mourinho and Fabregas working on Pedro, Semaan made contact with the Spaniard's wife, Carolina Martin, about moving to London.

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Fabregas is good friends with Pedro from their time together at Barcelona and with the Spanish national team, while Semaan also knows Martin well.

Between them, Mourinho, Granovskaia, Fabregas and Semaan managed to clinch a deal with Barcelona and convince Pedro to forget about United.

By the time Woodward denied there had been problems over the fee and claimed that the club had ended their interest in Pedro because of doubts from manager Louis van Gaal, the 28-year-old was already on a flight to London to undergo a medical.

Spanish sources also claim that United's bid ran into trouble because of Van Gaal's falling-out with Pedro's former Barcelona team-mate Victor Valdes, who has been frozen out at Old Trafford.

Read more: Pedro convinced by Mourinho's call

Hristo Stoichkov urged Pedro not to play for his former Barcelona manager Van Gaal, claiming the Dutchman was "mediocre" and somebody who "destroys clubs."

Mourinho is likely to have received a far better recommendation, as, intriguingly, Stoichkov visited Chelsea's Cobham training ground last week and spoke at length with the Portuguese and Fabregas.

The 'hijacking' of Pedro has echoes of Chelsea's late move to sign Willian from under the noses of Tottenham Hotspur two years ago in what was a significant blow to then manager Andre Villas-Boas.

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Mourinho's main motivation in signing Pedro is clearly to improve his team and squad, but he will take great delight in putting one over United off the pitch after Chelsea's slow start to the season on it.

Manchester City had also made inquiries over Pedro in case a bid for Kevin De Bruyne fell through, but the Eastlands club remain hopeful of clinching a deal for the former Chelsea midfielder.

Mourinho had hinted that he was frustrated by Chelsea's lack of transfer activity, but owner Roman Abramovich has responded to the City defeat by committing to spend up to £44million on Pedro and left-back Baba Rahman, while also having a £30million bid for central defender John Stones rejected.

Chelsea could yet land Stones for almost £40million before the transfer window shuts, but, even if Everton stand firm, there can be no doubt that Mourinho has been backed.

While there was an obvious space in which to bring in Rahman to replace Filipe Luis, Chelsea have signed Pedro without finding a definite buyer for either Juan Cuadrado or Victor Moses.

Juventus are interested in Cuadrado, who will be allowed to leave either permanently or on loan, while Moses is on Tottenham's list of targets but is not a priority.

Ironically, Mourinho could have signed Pedro in January but instead went for Cuadrado, who has not made any impact since his £23.3million arrival from Fiorentina.

Creating serious competition on the right side of attack has been a problem for Mourinho, with Andre Schurrle, Mohamed Salah and Cuadrado falling out of favour.

There is confidence that somebody with the experience of Pedro, who has won every honour in the domestic and international game, will cope better with the competition for places.

Pedro is likely to start on the right, with Willian and Oscar competing for the central position behind striker Diego Costa, and Eden Hazard staying on the left.

The Spaniard's pace should provide a new creative element to Chelsea's game, and his goalscoring record is good for somebody who operates on the flank. Pedro has twice scored more than 20 goals in all competitions for Barcelona, while he also netted 19 times in 2013/14.

Chelsea are waiting to see whether Stones agitates to leave Everton before making a fourth bid. Everton continue to insist the 21-year-old is not for sale.

The arrival of Pedro will lift the mood at Chelsea, following a tough week in which Mourinho was forced to answer questions over his demotion of club doctor Eva Carneiro and physio Jon Fearn and the team were beaten by City.

Carneiro was this week due to return to Cobham, but Chelsea are refusing to comment on the matter and she has not been seen by the club's first-team players. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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