It was almost exactly three years ago that Pedro signed with and made his debut for José Mourinho’s Chelsea, providing a brief spark in a season that was already turning severely south, with a goal and an assist against West Bromwich Albion. He couldn’t quite save the season — no one could — but for a moment, we were all quite happy, especially since we gazumped Manchester United for his signature (by bidding a whole €2m more than them).
But Pedro, thanks in large part to Chelsea falling apart around him, wouldn’t truly come good until the following season, when he became Antonio Conte’s first-choice right-winger in the 3-4-3 that took the league by storm and vaulted the Blues back to the top of the pile. He chipped in with 13 goals in all competitions — about his career average at Barcelona — some of them quite spectacular indeed.
One thing that’s immediately noticeable in the video above is Pedro’s ability to score with both feet — a skill that’s often lacking (or is barely there) even in top level footballers. In a recent interview with the Chelsea official website, the 31-year-old credits that skill to the training sessions he joined as a young boy growing up on the island of Tenerife.
“I grew up in a small village in Tenerife, in the Canary Islands. I first played football at school with my friends and I really liked it. So when I was about seven years old, I spoke with my parents, with my brother, and said I wanted to play in a team because it was a dream for me. They said, ‘Okay, go and play for a small team in the village’.”
“In that first phase, when you are young, you play to enjoy it, to score goals, to enjoy the feeling of playing sport. I have a lot of good memories from that time. When you start playing in a team, and playing games against other teams, the feeling is very good. After, when you grow up, you understand the sport more, and you work a lot on your strength, your speed and the tactical side of the game.”
“We played lots of small games then. Some focused on possession of the ball, or dribbling two against one, shots from outside the box, using your left foot, right foot. Practising with both feet in every training session is very important when you are young, because it means in the future you will be able to use this knowledge to your advantage. I think I am good with both my feet now because I did that.”
Pedro used those skills to go on to the world’s biggest football stages, but his first club, CD San Isidro reaped the benefits as well when they were paid over €450k from the Chelsea transfer, essentially securing their future for many years to come.
San Isidro played in front of crowds of maybe a couple thousand, so when Pedro arrived in Barcelona, to turn out in front of crowds 50-times larger, if not more, he could’ve been easily intimated. Instead, he rose to the occasion. He repaid then-Barca manager Pep Guardiola’s faith by becoming the first player in club history to score in six different competitions. Over the next six seasons, he became their “lucky charm” and etched his name into their history books alongside the likes of Messi, Iniesta, and Xavi.
“I was 17 when I moved from the Canary Islands to Barcelona. It was a very hard move for me. Change is always difficult! I had lived in a small village in Tenerife, and then I moved to Barcelona, a very big city. I went alone there and had new team-mates. Sometimes there were difficult moments, but it worked out okay! It was a good change for me in my life, for my experience, like when I moved here to Chelsea.”
“When you arrive at a big team like Barcelona, you always have more pressure when you play. This is difficult for young players, for everybody, but especially young players.”
“If you are 16 or 17 years old, like some players here, playing at the top level is very difficult. That’s normal. I found it when I started playing for Barcelona. I was very young and when I went on the pitch for the first time and saw the Camp Nou, I looked up into the stands and there were 100,000 people looking at me! That was hard for the mind. But when you are ready and you have enjoyed the sport all your life, it makes it much easier.”
-Pedro; source: Chelsea FC
Pedro’s off to a fantastic start under Maurizio Sarri, whose ideals align a bit closer with Barcelona’s than either of Pedro’s previous two managers at Chelsea did. He was Chelsea’s leading goalscorer in preseason, scoring two of our three goals total, and has netted in each of our first two Premier League matches as well. Having signed a one-year contract extension this summer to tie him to the club until 2020, the best of Pedro in a blue shirt may yet to come.