The Summer of 2015 may seem like many moons ago now, not only in our fast-moving world but also in the increasingly large number of chapters written in the recent history of Chelsea. With more twists than the conclusion of an M. Night Shyamalan thriller, supporter’s reality and comprehension following the predictably unpredictable Blues is a tidal wave of emotion.
But in that summer, I along with my brother and a close mate had made the trip up to The Hawthorns. It was Chelsea’s third game into the 2015/16 season (yes, that one).
It was following a dismal 3-0 defeat away to Manchester City and a chaotic 2-2 draw at home to Swansea on the opening day. Some form of normality for the defending Champions was expected to kick in at some point and this was hopefully the afternoon to do just that. The big talking point as team news broke was that we would see the debut of Pedro Rodriguez recently acquired from Barcelona, snatched under the noses of Manchester United.
The deal itself was another Jose Mourinho-infused piece of savvy dealing, personally convincing the player to walk away from a deal with the Red Devils to join the reigning Premier League holders. The transfer window had mostly flattered to deceive after reclaiming the title in the Spring.
Radamel Falcao was brought in for a lucrative loan fee after struggling at Manchester United, Asmir Begovic was signed as back-up from Stoke and the unknown talent of winger Kenedy was acquired from Fluminense. It was far from a window befitting a club looking to go-again in a title charge to assert dominance in domestic competition.
An Injection Of Energy On And Off The Pitch
Pedro though was finally the profile that suited Chelsea’s ambition. The fast forward arrived already dripping in accolades. Being a key figure in Pep Guardiola’s revolutionary Barcelona side which tiki-takkared their way to two European Cups. A regular in Vicente del Bosque’s Spain which captured both the World Cup and European Championships in 2010 and 2012. A CV that would put most to shame and there was an air of class about seeing him put on a Chelsea shirt for the first time.
The afternoon against West Brom was anything but comfortable for Chelsea. Five goals, a red card for John Terry and a penalty save from Thibaut Courtois were all contained in a 90 minute period of madness. The Blues held on for their first three points of the season winning 3-2, but all that was worth talking about in the aftermath was the new signing.
Pedro had injected an energy and flair that was sorely lacking from Chelsea’s languid nature.
Darting in and out of space, evading challenges and leaving opponents chasing shadows, the winger looked like a player from a different planet on that day. He would net his first goal, cutting inside and drilling a shot into the bottom corner. He would then set up the second, a flowing move from Eden Hazard to Pedro, who would then fire the ball across goal to catch the flailing leg of Diego Costa which diverted the ball into the net. Until his name eventually got called in the second period, Chelsea fans had seen enough to be impressed. A week later he would set up Chelsea’s equaliser at home to Crystal Palace with a pinpoint cross from the right onto Falcao’s head. However, like on many occasions that season, disaster was only around the corner as Palace would shortly reclaim the lead and take all three points.
His maiden campaign was one of struggle. With the club wrangled in chaos and crisis with the disastrous first half leading to Jose Mourinho’s sacking, any sense of desired stability had evaporated. Pedro would end the season with 40 appearances, netting 7 goals – 6 in the Premier League and 1 in the League Cup.
Both Mourinho and interim Head Coach Guus Hiddink would field Pedro equally on the left and right on a front three. Suffering a hamstring injury which left him out of a couple of games, there was a sense the best was still to come. A double in a 5-1 hammering of Newcastle United in February showcased what Chelsea had invested in. Both one-on-one finishes, the second most impressive – taking the ball out of the air from a delicious Cesc Fabregas pass and curling it into the bottom corner.
Better Things To Come
Then came his second season, which saw a major change in fortunes for both Pedro and Chelsea.
Antonio Conte’s arrival reenergised the entire Chelsea squad and it would not be long before the Blues were back winning, and the Spaniard was firing on all cylinders.
It would take him till late October to net his first goal of the season at home to Manchester United. It was a famously fast goal less than a minute from kick–off, ending with Pedro outthinking the United defenders and rounding David De Gea to slot into an empty net.
That intelligent direct running would cause havoc for opponents in Conte’s 3-4-3 formation. A crucial leveler at home to Tottenham in November showcased Pedro’s flare for the exceptional, curling a ball from outside the box around the Spurs defence and out of Hugo Lloris’s reach. His next would be another classy curler at home to Bournemouth on Boxing Day.
The most important goal would come in late April at Goodison Park. It was a tense afternoon, with the Blues only 4 points clear of Spurs in second, this felt like the biggest test left on the road to reclaiming the Premier League title. With the game all square at 66 minutes, Pedro would receive the ball away from goal, before swiftly darting inside and sprinting across the pitch trying to find an angle. When he did on his left foot, the curling strike was bound for goal from the moment it left his boot. Sending the vocal away section into raptures, as a flurry of Chelsea players descended on that corner to celebrate a huge goal.
Throwback to Pedro’s goal vs Everton. 👌pic.twitter.com/lOgdh24t6y
— Chelsea FC News (@Chelsea_FL) September 2, 2017
A contest that was tense and cagey would open up as soon a second and then a third would follow to secure a huge three points. A goal on the final day of the season rounded off a highly successful one for the winger, claiming a league winners medal whilst smiling with the trophy to the vast array of cameras. Pedro would hit a goal tally of 13, with 12 assists from 43 appearances. Thanks to the exceptional form of Eden Hazard, this would be the season Pedro was firmly assigned to a role on Chelsea’s right wing.
What this season – like all of his in blue have demonstrated – is Pedro’s ability to score big goals in important games. Opener’s, levellers and clinchers. Not many have been the third and fourth in a 5-0 hammering when the game has been settled. The pure knack of finding the net at the vital moments would consistently earn him minutes and praise from supporters.
The “Ohh Pedro Rodriguez.” chants have been a regular occurrence at Chelsea games, accompanied by that glowing smile that has been consistently present on the winger’s face making him a treasured figure in the Chelsea dressing room.
Although Pedro has not been able to replicate the height of 16/17, there were still many memorable moments to follow.
A sensational 25-yard strike at home to Watford in October 2017 is still one of the best finishes Stamford Bridge has witnessed in recent memory, and a vital winner in Extra-Time away to Leicester City in March put Chelsea on the path to an FA Cup triumph in May.
In 18/19 he would net 13 goals once more, this with the most appearances the No.11 has made in his Chelsea career with 53 appearances.
The Beginning Of The End
With Pedro’s age a concern and consistency dropping, more criticism would follow with fans craving to see an injection of youth with Callum Hudson-Odoi on the rise. The youngster would take Pedro’s place in the Spring and it appeared that would have been the case for the rest of the season if it wasn’t for the 18-year-old suffering a rupture to his Achilles tendon, ending his year.
The Spaniard’s best moment would be left for the final day at Baku’s Olympic Stadium in the Europa League Final. 11 minutes after Olivier Giroud powerfully put Chelsea ahead against his former club, Pedro would once again found himself central to a key goal, slotting in a second as Chelsea strolled towards another piece of European silverware.
19/20 has undeniably been the forward’s most challenging season in West London, struggling to gain substantial minutes under Frank Lampard. With Lampard’s faith to embed a younger generation within his squad, Pedro has had to wait patiently to be brought back into the fray as Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Willian have all gone ahead, even Mason Mount at times being fielded wide.
Before football was suspended indefinitely due to the Coronavirus pandemic Pedro had only 18 appearances to his name. 9 in the Premier League, 3 in the FA Cup and Champions League and 2 in the EFL Cup – also starting in August’s Super Cup against Liverpool.
Before the season was halted, Pedro was a player coming into form and favour under Lampard. Starting against Bournemouth, Liverpool and Everton, netting his first league goal of the season at home to the Toffees in fine style.
It is no secret Pedro’s contract is running out and expires on June 30th. It is unclear given the current pandemic how the season will be concluded and whether special dispensation will be given to clubs in this unique situation to briefly extend those contracts in order to complete the final 10 games.
There was some furore recently when Pedro spoke to a Spanish radio station in which it was reported he had confirmed his departure from Chelsea in the Summer. A day later Chelsea FC’s website put out an article clarifying the winger’s statement as a mistranslation as Pedro was keen to correct.
“As many people know, my contract is up in May, but I still haven’t spoken to the club about whether or not it will be renewed and whether I’ll carry on.
“I’ve seen loads of messages from Chelsea fans saying goodbye and thanking me for the time I’ve spent here, which I appreciate, but I’d like to tell all the fans simply that my current contract is coming to an end but I still have to talk to the club.
“I don’t know whether I’ll keep playing here or not. That conversation is still to come. But I have not signed for any other club. I belong to Chelsea. I have a contract. My wish is to be able to stay here but obviously we don’t know what will happen. I have to speak to the club and let’s see what happens.”
Even through a mistranslation it is widely expected Pedro’s days are numbered with Chelsea and a departure is soon to be on the horizon.
Once A Blue, Always A Blue
We do not know when this season will be concluded, so all previous expectations we had of the norms in a football season have been firmly tossed out of the window. Though what we can say with certainty is how good of a player Pedro has been for Chelsea Football Club.
Within days of arriving it was clear the Blues had signed a true craftsman of the game. A player capable of moments of brilliance that have captivated the imagination of supporters. His winning mentality is unmatched, having the nous even in leaner years to step up at the right time to win his teams big games – an attribute you cannot put a price on.
Though beyond his countless medals and accolades, the pure guile and flair of Pedro will stick in the minds of Chelsea fans for years to come. Those effortless flicks, being able to perfectly kill a looping ball dead and quickly get it out of his feet for a shot. And of course, that endearing smile, which has accompanied so much of his Chelsea career. A carefree player for a carefree club.
As Chelsea look to the future in younger legs, there will be a hole left by Pedro in the First Team. Now a statesman of the game, it is hard to doubt the influence he has on the younger members of the current squad who must look up to his career in awe.
Many people will ponder who they would pay to go and see play football, and that can sometimes feel a bit reductive given the clubs we support we would pay out of pure affection no matter who was playing. Though on this occasion, a player that perfectly suits that bill is Pedro Rodriguez.
Gracias for being a Blue.
Edited by Martell Dublin