World Cup 2010: Why Spain Must Take Pedro with Them To South Africa
Today Spain's preliminary 30-man squad for the World Cup was released. In addition to the usual suspects are five players who have yet to debut in the Roja of the national team shirt.
None are more deserving of a spot in Spain's final 23 than Barcelona's Pedro Rodríguez.
Looking back just 24 months, Pedrito (little Pedro) was plying his trade in the fourth division of Spanish football for Barça Athletic. Under the guidance of coach Josep Guardiola, Barcelona's Academy side won promotion and Guardiola was given the big job.
He wasted no time in promoting Pedrito and teammate Sergio Busquets to the first team. They have repaid his confidence in full. Both were key contributors in the six titles Barça won last year, and have since consolidated themselves in the starting lineup at the expense Thierry Henry and Yaya Touré.
While Busquets has already established himself with the full national side, Pedrito waited longer to explode upon the national footballing consciousness. And explode he did. Shorn of the diminutive suffix of previous years, Pedro started the season in a flash, scoring the game winning goals in both the Spanish and European Super Cups.
His goal against Atalante and his last minute equalizer against Estudiantes in the final of the World Club Cup made him the only player in history to score in six different competitions.
Much more than a statistical fluke, Pedro is the complete package.
He plays on either wing, and possesses such an abundance of qualities that you hardly notice his lack of pace.
Like Dennis Bergkamp in his prime, he uses both feet to keep the ball with an elegance that can only be appreciated once the series of movements is completed. His twists and turns leave the spectator just as hopeless at predicting his intentions as his defender.
When not holding up the ball with the expertise of a player twice his age, Pedro is on the move. His runs between lines and behind the defenses make him a constant nuisance to the opposition.
The timing of these runs make him one of Xavi's preferred targets, and his ability to lay off the ball in one or two touches feed the attacking forays of Lionel Messi and Dani Alves.
Then there are his goals.
He has 18 this season, and anyone who has seen them will be awed by his composure. He has taken his chances with his right and his left; from close and far; with a body fake and on the volley. He always seems to make the right decision for the situation at hand.
If these things weren't already enough for a 22-year old in his second season in the top flight, he also boasts an impeccable work-rate and attitude. Just last week against Tenerife he tracked an attacker all the way back into his own penalty area, made the goal-saving tackle, and was back to the forward line to finish the Barça counter-attack, all within 30 seconds.
One could argue that these qualities are not enough, that Spain is so blessed with talent that deserving players are sure to miss the plane to South Africa.
This may be true, but Pedro's case is different because his style of play fit Spain like a custom tailored suit.
Not only does Pedro boast a seemingly telepathic rapport with Xavi, Spain's leading playmaker, but he plays club football with the backbone of the Spanish starting 11. Even the formation and tactics used by Spain mirror Barcelona's. The Tiki-Taka passing game that won them the European Championship was inherited from the Catalan club.
He also offers something Spain lacks.
The Spanish midfield is far and away the most talented in this Summer's tournament. In David Villa and Fernando Torres, they have two of football's most dangerous frontmen. What they lack is natural width.
Their single loss in recent years was against a United States that clogged the center with a narrow 4-4-2. The Americans completely surrendered the wings, but Spain did not have the players to capitalize the way Brazil did days later.
The fact that Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque has called four young wingers to the training camp suggest he is looking at addressing this shortcoming. Mata, Cazorla and Navas are all fine players, but none offer the versatility, work-rate, composure, or goal scoring of the 22-year old from the Canary Islands.
If Spain are serious about winning the World Cup, they have to take Pedro.
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