Chelsea trigger release clause pipping Manchester United to Pedro

Deal to be completed in next 24 hours as Old Trafford club lose out on yet another target

Barcelona’s forward Pedro Rodriguez now looks set to join Chelsea. Photograph: Getty Images

Barcelona’s forward Pedro Rodriguez now looks set to join Chelsea. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Telephone conversations with Jose Mourinho and Cesc Fabregas persuaded the Barcelona forward Pedro Rodriguez to snub long-standing interest from Manchester United and move instead to Chelsea in a deal that will be worth €30 million.

The Premier League champions are expected to confirm the Spain international’s signing in the next 24 hours after he flew in to London yesterday to undertake a medical. Confirmation that Chelsea were reviving interest first expressed in Pedro in January and, briefly, again in June came as a blow to United, whose executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, had been negotiating with Barca over a similar deal earlier this week.

Chelsea’s move threatened any agreement and United withdrew their interest, apparently with Louis van Gaal’s consent, amid suggestions the manager was actually happy with his attacking midfield options. That notion has since been confused after it emerged a bid was lodged with Southampton last week for their Senegal forward, Sadio Mane, with Saints having insisted the player is not available for transfer.

Chelsea’s move for Pedro was smoothed efficiently with Barca by the Stamford Bridge director Marina Granovskaia, with a bid submitted on Tuesday – understood to be around €27 million with add-ons to take it up to €30 million – which triggered the release clause in the player’s contract at the Camp Nou.

Second Captains

The 28-year-old, while aware of Chelsea’s interest earlier in the summer, had envisaged moving to Old Trafford only for talks to drag with no agreement reached, and concern to grow over Van Gaal’s treatment of his friend, the discarded goalkeeper Victor Valdes, and Spain team-mate David de Gea.

On the same night Chelsea agreed a fee to secure the player, contact was forthcoming – apparently with Barcelona’s permission – from Mourinho and the attacker’s former club-mate, Fabregas. The World Cup and European Championship winners are friends, with Fabregas’s girlfriend, Daniella Semaan, and Pedro’s wife, Carolina Martin, also close. Fabregas was able to offer assurances regarding life at Stamford Bridge, though Mourinho went further, offering an explanation as to how Pedro will fit into his first team as the club attempt to snap out of their worst start to a season since 1998.

By the time United let it be known they had ended their interest, Pedro, who has 15 major trophies from his decade with the Catalans and had only signed a new contract running through to 2019 in June, was on his way to London to undertake medical tests and discuss personal terms at Chelsea’s training base in Surrey.

Pedro’s arrival may now see Willian moved inside to a central role in the manager’s preferred selection but will also have implications for Juan Cuadrado. Mourinho had actually pushed for a move for the Colombian in January before Pedro because the Barca player was cup-tied in European competition. Cuadrado joined from Fiorentina for around €30 million in February yet he did not feature in the Champions League knockout tie with Paris Saint-Germain a month later. It is a measure of how disappointing his spell at the club has been that he is now effectively available for loan or transfer only six months on.

While Chelsea may now follow up the signing with a fourth bid for the Everton defender John Stones, United’s next move remains to be determined. Mane scored 10 goals in his first campaign in English football, including the fastest Premier League hat-trick against Aston Villa in May.

Southampton, who have suggested United’s interest was more an inquiry than a formal offer, are intent on retaining the 23-year-old for the season ahead. Woodward could yet test that resolve before the transfer deadline at the end of the month.

(Guardian service)

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