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Barca's spare man grew tired of his life on the bench

By Pete Jenson

The Uefa Super Cup final last week gave Pedro his 20th winners' medal at Barcelona, and that night in Tbilisi was his career in 120 minutes - he did not start the game but he did finish it, in every sense of the word, scoring the winning goal against Sevilla six minutes from the end of extra-time.

Year after year at Barcelona Pedro has been a glorious afterthought - the person everyone had down as 12th man when the campaign began but who ended up being one of the most important players.

In an interview during the 2013-14 season, he told me: "When I started we had Samuel (Eto'o) and Titi (Thierry Henry). Then Zlatan (Ibrahimovic) came. Now we have Alexis (Sanchez), (Lionel) Messi, Neymar. Another new signing, another big name, will probably arrive in the summer but I will just keep going."

He was right about what the summer would bring because Barca signed Luis Suarez for £75m, and the son of a Tenerife petrol station attendant, who grew up to win the World Cup with Spain, was back on the bench.

Last season it was evident that he had become disillusioned with a role he once embraced.

In 2011, it seemed he had established himself in the starting line-up alongside David Villa and Messi.

Barca reached the Champions League final at Wembley and Pedro scored in the 3-1 win over Manchester United. But even that was not enough to change his image as a reliable player rather than a great one. Gradually he began to see the modesty which had been one of his endearing qualities was his own worst enemy.

Now 28, and with a European Championship to look forward to next summer, Pedro had started to wonder if he should not be asking more from his career before it is too late.

The arrival of Suarez was perhaps the final push.

The way the former Liverpool striker clicked with Messi and Neymar provoked a renegotiation of Pedro's contract in the middle of last season, bringing his buy-out clause down from the symbolic "not for sale" €150m, to €30m (£21.1m).

Fitting in will not be a problem at Chelsea. There is no reason to believe he will have any more difficulty adapting to the English game than his international team-mates David Silva, Santi Cazorla and Jesus Navas.

Cesc Fabregas talks about La Liga imports to the Premier League benefiting from the sense of tactical chaos in so many top-flight English games. The feeling among the Spanish is that the first wave of pressure from teams is brutal, but once you have got beyond that the space opens up. He should thrive.

Off the pitch, the presence of friends from the Spain camp, Diego Costa and Cesar Azpilicueta, will help and Fabregas will act as a role model and guide.

Chelsea's title-winning team last season had Willian, Oscar and Eden Hazard and some Barca supporters have already asked if Pedro might struggle to get in.

Having taken on Ibrahimovic, Henry, Eto'o and Sanchez at the Nou Camp, he's probably not too worried about that.

Belfast Telegraph


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