When a World Cup-winning Spanish winger arrived at Chelsea in August 2015, the excitement was unreal. £21m was seen as an absolute bargain for a player with such credentials: five La Liga titles, three Champions League victories and a World Cup, to name just a few of his honours.
Pedro Rodríguez made the switch from Catalunya to Cobham, leaving the Spanish champions for the English champions in a remarkable piece of business from José Mourinho. He was greeted with open arms in west London – a welcome addition to such a decorated club.
Five years on, it’s clear to see that Pedro has certainly lived up to the initial hype.
A Premier League, FA Cup and Europa League in his time at Chelsea, the Spaniard playing a key role in every single one of those triumphs. Over 200 appearances with 43 goals to his name, numerous big-game goals and priceless moments, all deservedly earning him the recognition as a fantastic servant to the club.
But for all of his brilliant achievements with the club, his role is changing.
Now 32 years old, Pedro is playing less than ever this year. He played an average of 82.9% of league games in his first four seasons, but has only featured in 31% of Chelsea’s current campaign. Nine league appearances is his lowest tally in 11 years, dating way back to his debut senior season for Barcelona in 2008/09.
It took until March for him to get off the mark in the Premier League, getting a goal and assist in the 4-0 drubbing of Everton. Before that, his only goal for the season had come six months earlier, when he captained the Blues in the Carabao Cup thrashing of Grimsby Town.
These stats show that, with all due respect, Pedro is past his prime at Chelsea.
He’s had a great career in London, and has been a great player for the club. His goals fantastic, his contributions priceless, and his reputation at Stamford Bridge high, hearing his name chanted in the terraces whenever he takes to the pitch.
But times are beginning to change, starting with the arrival of Frank Lampard. His injection of youth players proves Lampard’s faith and admiration of Chelsea’s youth products, finally sorting out the balance between up and coming youngsters and seasoned veterans in the senior squad.
It’s not to say that Lampard is forcing Pedro out: far from it. Yet, like with fellow winger Willian, who has reached the time to leave Chelsea with a happy ending, the same is the case for Pedro.
His experience has been crucial these last few years, helping younger players like Callum Hudson-Odoi further develop in the early stages of his career. Pedro’s impact is just as important off the pitch, around Cobham where he can use his experience to aid the new wave of youngsters in the first team.
With Pedro not even reaching double figures yet for league appearances, his gametime won’t be increasing any time soon.
As well as Hudson-Odoi, there is more and more competition coming from younger talent. Christian Pulisic has just begun his rise to stardom at Stamford Bridge, while Hakim Ziyech’s arrival will need to come at the expense of someone. Mason Mount will also surely be a key part of Chelsea’s attack this decade, wherever he is on the pitch.
When Lampard has younger, fresher options among his ranks, the need for Pedro – and Willian for that matter – gradually decreases. That has already been shown this season, with the Spaniard having to rely on cup competitions as a rotating player for any sign of gametime.
Pedro’s contract runs out this summer, and he is yet to sign an extension. Willy Caballero and Olivier Giroud both saw their expiring contracts renewed this month, but there has been no similar luck for the 32-year-old. It is unlikely to be renewed, with the Spaniard even implying that himself.
New youngsters will continue to come through the ranks and into Lampard’s squad, and the more minutes they are getting, the less that are left for players like Pedro. The time has come for him to move on, find a club which will give him regular gametime again before hanging up his boots.
That is important to remember: Pedro is not finished, far from it.
His time at Chelsea may be coming to a close, but he still has a good few years left in him. He can still play at a decent level, and remains at the stage of his career where he can still be a valuable asset to someone. A return to Spain would be a great option: a club like UD Las Palmas would be ideal, allowing a return to his native Canary Islands.
Pedro still has a lot to offer, just not at Chelsea. However, should he leave Stamford Bridge this summer after five fruitful years, he will leave with the same pride, respect and admiration he arrived with all those years ago.
The time is now for the Spaniard to move on, but he will always be a blue.