Pedro León: The Lion Ghost of Real Madrid & His Haunting of Jose Mourinho
July 15, 2010: Pedro León Sanchez Gil signs with Real Madrid from neighboring team Getafe, where he had an explosive and successful 2009-2010 campaign.
September 2010: León is dropped from a Champions League group stage game against Auxerre after failing to follow Jose Mourinho’s orders in a game against Levante immediately prior, and for assuming he would automatically play in that very game against Auxerre.
November 2010: León scores a last minute game-winner at the San Siro, beating AC Milan in the group stage of the Champions League in a heroic victory that sent Real Madrid into the next round.
February 2011: León and Fernando Gago partake in a scuffle at practice and are demoted from the next game’s squad list.
And that’s it. That's the significance of León at Real Madrid—thus far.
Now, this is not to say that León’s impact has lacked importance. In fact, the four points can arguably indicate how highly—yet flawed—Real Madrid can portray itself, how big boss Jose Mourinho runs his team and how players should conduct themselves when playing for possibly the most spotlighted club in the world.
Perhaps, compared to 2009-2010’s seasons signings of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, and Karim Benzema, 2010-2011’s acquisitions could be said to have had less fanfare.
Although, for the team as a whole, the 2010-2011 contingent might prove more functional. As Kaka and Benzema have struggled to provide exceptional football for Los Blancos, the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor, Ricardo Carvalho, Angel di Maria and Mesut Ozil have seemingly adapted beautifully to the Real Madrid system.
Sami Khedira has worked hard, but it cannot be said that he has played excellently or poorly. Injuries have subdued his presence at times, and his acclimation to being a true holding midfielder has taken patience and may have stymied his progress (where in Germany, he provided more of an attacking presence).
Sergio Canales and León, however, have suffered. In Canales’ defense, being 20 years old and playing for Real Madrid cannot be that simple, especially with the likes of world class footballers such as Kaka and Ozil playing directly in front you at the same position.
This leads me to Pedro León. His relationship with Mourinho must be on the rocks. Stories of poor attitude and a quick temper come to mind. A me-first approach on a team full of superstars, when you yourself cannot be considered one, is a bad sign.
Is this a just a case of a young and naïve personality needing a case of humbling? Why have di Maria, Ozil and Khedira gelled so well, yet León seems to be on the outside of everything? Does no one like him?
To know what goes on inside the clubhouse would be one thing, but what can be confirmed is what we see on the pitch.
In Pedro León’s lone season at Getafe, he shined brightly with nine goals and nine assists, culminating with Getafe securing a UEFA Europa League spot.
His dribbling and free-kick skills could prove vital to Madrid, as could his ability to play on both sides of the flanks. I’ve seen glimpses of this.
His brief displays of playing time for Madrid show me that he has the pace, spark and fury to cause damage on the offensive attack. His ability to progress towards the attack and provide dangerous passes into the box should be evident, but often it is not, due to lack of playing time.
Why? Lack of elite skill? Poor attitude? Maybe. But this is Real Madrid we’re talking about, and there must be outside influences.
Does a club invest €10 million on a player not to play him? Does a club sign a player solely for the purpose to fulfill FIFA’s mandated rule that a club must have at least eight home-grown players?
I say no and no. Yes, Real Madrid has millions to spend, but the investment must come to fruition. Why spend all that money for a Spaniard when they could have brought up a youth player from la Castilla?
And so, perhaps obviously, the sole reason must come down to Mourinho. It has been said that León was not a Mourinho signing and that "The Special One" did not even know who the man from Murcia was a couple weeks prior to his acquisition.
Is this just a ploy for Mourinho to not play a player whom he does not even want? Mourinho even lashed out at journalists when asked about Pedro. He scolded them for talking about Pedro as if he's Zidane, Maradona or di Stefano.
The three competitions Los Blancos find themselves in this season have lent the squad no room for injuries. Surprisingly or not, Ronaldo has played every available La Liga minute afforded. Won’t he run out of gas? What about Ozil and di Maria? It must be imperative for León to remain healthy and vigilant. He should get his chance.
The recent news that Real Madrid are looking to bring back former Castilla players Dani Parejo and Jose Callejon does not bode well for the likes of León and Canales.
There will simply be no room and no consideration for these two current outcasts. Canales has phenomenon written all over him, so there are many excuses available for him.
León is not a rubbish player, and the only way players can shine and excel are when opportunities are afforded to them.
Whether the fault should rest entirely on León’s shoulders or whether it be animosity from Mourinho stemming from preference or bias, it should just be said that Pedro León should be given the chance to thrive in the Real Madrid environment.
Real Madrid currently sit 10 points behind Barcelona as of March 3, 2011, before their La Liga game vs. Malaga. What more do they have to lose?
Until then, a hungry lion basks and wanders the shadows of Madrid ready to pounce on his opportunity. I have not been this excited to see a player emerge from the bowels of the Bernabeu bench and show his worth since Ruben de la Red and Esteban "El Pirata" Granero. Let’s see if another former Getafe man can make his mark at Real Madrid.
Because the Bernabeu is always looking for a new hero.
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