By Manuel Traquete
On Saturday, Barcelona kept their unstoppable run of results by completely obliterating city rivals Espanyol at the Cornellà-El Prat stadium 5-1.
The blaugrana give everyone the same treatment and Espanyol became the sixth team this season to conceded five or more goals against Pep Guardiola’s juggernaut, after Panathinaikos, Sevilla, Almeria, Real Madrid and Real Sociedad. Espanyol had a 100 percent home record so far this season, but such records become irrelevant when Barcelona is on the other side of the pitch.
With another massive blowout, Barcelona will end the year in first place, with 43 points from 14 wins, one draw and one defeat—the best start in La Liga’s history.
Besides, Barcelona have scored an unbelievable 51 goals (more than three per match) and only conceeded nine (best attack and best defense). Lionel Messi leads both the scoring and assist charts, while David Villa has also been scoring freely lately and Xavi and Iniesta have been as brilliant as usual.
In the shadows of Barcelona star-studded lineup, though, a new world beater has emerged. His name: Pedro Rodriguez Ledesma, the boy no one had even heard of two years ago and who has been taking the football world by storm since last year.
The 23-year-old Spanish player had already established himself as a world-class winger last season, where he became the first player ever to score in six different competitions in the same year and ended up playing a vital role in Spain’s World Cup success. This year, though, he is taking his game to a whole new level.
His mission wasn’t an easy one; his attacking partners are none other than the best player of this generation, Lionel Messi, and the best Spanish striker of all-time, David Villa. Pedro, however, hasn’t shied away and has stepped up to the challenge, and he’s a more than worthy member of Barcelona’s attacking trio.
On Saturday, Pedro had a fabulous performance at the Cornellà-El Prat, scoring two goals and wreaking havoc in Espanyol’s defense. It was a performance that summed up what Pedro is all about: pace, technique, great work ethic and finishing skills.
Watching Pedro, it’s easy to understand why Thiery Henry was benched last season and why Fernando Torres had the same fate in the World Cup.
After scoring 23 goals last season, Pedro has already scored eleven this term, nine of which during the past month. He has also been providing several assists to his teammates. His trio with Messi and Villa promises to be even more deadly than Messi, Eto’o and Henry in 2008/2009.
Pedro, Messi and Villa are constantly interchancing positions, which makes them nearly unstoppable (ask Real Madrid). Their chemistry is fantastic and they are all fast and technically gifted players. While Eto’o, Messi and Henry scored a combined 100 goals in 2008/2009, Pedro, Messi and Villa have already racked up 51 (27 for Messi, 13 for Villa and 11 for Pedro) and we’re not even half the season yet.
Playing alongside the three current best players in the world and Spain’s No. 1 striker could be a burden for a young player, but Pedrito has been taking full advantage of it and he has been evolving as a player every day. Now, he’s no longer just playing alongside world-class players, he is one of them and an important member in Pep Guardiola’s Dream Team.
This means that Ibrahim Afellay, as great a player as he is, will have to settle for being on the bench. Pedro is no longer a promise; he’s a certified world-class player.
Barcelona are trying to repeat their 2008/2009 achievements and Pedro’s contribution will be fundamental to the team’s success. Pep Guardiola knows of his importance more than anyone.
At only 23, the sky is the limit for Pedro, as the Barcelona youth product has everything to become an FC Barcelona and Spanish football legend.
Pep Guardiola must take a lot of credit here too. It was him who took a chance with Pedro, turning him into a world-class player in just one year. From an unknown into a World Champion in just one year…a player who will be a Barcelona star for many years to come.