Saturday 24 March 2018

Pedro looks perfect fit to finish Chelsea jigsaw, says Guillem Balague

Pedro Rodriguez will be a big asset to Chelsea, says Guillem Balague
Pedro Rodriguez will be a big asset to Chelsea, says Guillem Balague
Pedro Rodriguez could very well be the perfect piece to the Chelsea jigsaw

Guillem Balague

It would be heresy to say that Pedro was just a part-time player at Barcelona. He has won World Cup, European Championship and Champions League medals, and was a crucial member of Pep Guardiola's team between 2008 and 2012, which became the best Barcelona team in the history of the club.

The only reason he has not been a first-team player recently is because of the quality of Barcelona's forward line - Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, who are three of the best players in the world.

This has helped Chelsea to buy him and he is a very good signing for the club as he is exactly the sort of player that they require.

Chelsea have been exceptionally clever, too. They have done well to convince both Pedro and his wife, especially as he had already agreed personal terms with Manchester United, and that appeared to be where he was heading. Having friends at Stamford Bridge was also a big factor.

As Pedro said himself: "I spoke to Cesc (Fabregas). We are very good friends. I knew I would feel at home here and that was one of the main reasons why I decided to join.

"He's a great player, he's got brilliant vision and he links up really well with the other attacking players. I know we work well together on the pitch so I can't wait to play with him again.

12 costa SOCCER Chels_2.jpg
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho does not know whether Diego Costa will be fit when the Barclays Premier League champions begin their title defence at home to Swansea on Saturday

"I have also played with Diego Costa and Cesar Azpilicueta before, for the national team, so I feel very comfortable here."

Manchester City were also interested, but Pedro (below) had his reservations about a move there, because he felt he did not have a clear role in that team. At Chelsea, this is clear.

The club need a player who can run in behind the defence and run intelligently without the ball.

Juan Cuadrado was originally signed for this purpose, and was obviously seen as a vital part of the club's future when he came in, but he has not settled in.

Cuadrado is actually the closest player to Pedro I can think of, certainly in the Premier League, and Pedro will now play in his role.

There are differences between the two, however, and it is actually quite difficult to think of too many players in England similar to him.

Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United all lack a player in his mould.

Manchester United set to make a move on Southampton's Sadio Mane

Sadio Mane, who has been linked to United, is somewhat alike, but Pedro will not pick the ball up and run at players in the same way. He is fast in the first 10 to 15 metres, but not over longer distances.

Chelsea fans will need to be patient. Although I dispute the idea that the Premier League is so difficult to settle into because of its physicality, it is normal and understandable for players to take some time to adjust.

So, I doubt Pedro will become a starter at Chelsea for the first two or three months.

In terms of his fitness, he is two or three weeks behind the Premier League players (with La Liga set to kick off this weekend). It also takes a lot out of you, moving house and settling somewhere new.

But I certainly believe he can adapt to the Premier League. This is because Pedro has been able to adapt to new roles and responsibilities throughout his career.

After Pep Guardiola - the man who promoted Pedro to the Barcelona first team and nurtured him from a young age - left the club, Tito Vilanova, and then Gerardo Martino, gave him different roles to play, as Barcelona's style altered.

For the Spanish national team, too, he was given a different set of responsibilities by Vicente del Bosque. He was expected to play more with the ball in that team.

His most recent manager at Barcelona, Luis Enrique - who was incredibly impressed with Pedro's attitude and everything else about the player - recognised this adaptability and actually experimented with the idea of playing him as a full-back.

In the end he did not, and I am not sure that would have ever worked as he is not the player to be able to repeatedly sprint up and down the wings.

However, it shows you how highly he was regarded, and the fact that he was played in so many roles demonstrates how clever he is. In fact, his intelligence is his biggest attribute, more so than his skill.

Pedro was an especially important player for Guardiola's team, and it did not take the manager long to promote Pedro to the first team, alongside Sergio Busquets.

This is because Pep instantly recognised in him the kind of player that he had been looking for.

He was somebody who wanted to run in behind the defence, somebody who was not going to wait to be played in. A player intense in pressure, with and without the ball.

Josep Guardiola reacts during the Champions League semi final second leg match between Bayern Munich and Barcelona

Guardiola knew early on that there was also something special about him. He was very good inside the box - a goalscorer - and did not require many touches before he made an impact. This is a quality as a player that you either have, or you do not.

Under Guardiola, Pedro developed into a player who was important not only in the box, but outside of it, too.

Guardiola wanted his wingers to be very wide and to come inside behind the defence, and to do it constantly, which was a role that Pedro suited.

He was a success in his first full season under Guardiola, and scored more than 20 goals.

So Pedro is a very good player. It is also interesting to note that this move once again fits the two dominant trends in the European transfer market right now.

The first is that the best players in the Premier League, such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and possibly now David de Gea, tend to end up playing in La Liga.

The second is that, below Messi and Ronaldo, there are a group of players in La Liga who want to play more regularly, to be stars and to earn a lot of money.

Angel di Maria, Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Pedro; all have moved for such reasons.

So, these players go to the Premier League, which is a very rich league and should perhaps have even bigger stars. But the attraction of La Liga is still strong for many. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Sky Sports will show over 300 live games from La Liga this season, starting tonight with Malaga v Sevilla

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