Positive for the summer: David Villa was sold to Atletico Madrid, leaving the Barcelona frontline just a little bit thinner. Bad news? Neymar arrived and Cristian Tello got an impressive new extension, keeping Pedro Rodriguez an Alexis Sanchez in a weird place heading into next season.
Two similar players, at a similar age. Pedro is 25, can use both of his feet, but is a lot more useful when playing on the right wing. Alexis is 24, uses his right foot mainly, and is physically stronger than Pedro, making him a bit more capable of playing as somewhat of a target man if necessary, which worked pretty well during his debut season at Barcelona.
Last season was rough for both players. Hard working? All the time, but the numbers just didn’t add up. Pedro finished with 7 league goals and 10 assists, an at first thought, probably had a better season than Alexis. Sanchez played one more match, but came off the bench more times (11), and enjoyed a strong and long garbage time finish without Lionel Messi to “steal” some of the spotlight, finishing the year with 8 league goals and 9 assists.
This year? Messi in the middle, Neymar on the left, unless the arrival of Gerardo Martino is going to change the Barcelona system significantly (probably not), leaving one more spot on the right. Who wins it? It’s probably good to remember that Tello is predominantly a player who prefers to play on the left wing, so he’ll probably be backing up Neymar most of the time, while Pedro and Alexis battle for the right winger position.
In a season as long as teams like Barcelona have, which usually mounts up to almost (or even more) 60 matches a season, there isn’t just one player for one position, except for a chose few. There’s going to be plenty of rotation between the two players to avoid injuries, which have been a part of their careers for the last couple of seasons. In short – may the best man win.
But for both of them, staying another season is somewhat of a gamble. Sanchez seemed to be on his way out of the club before the summer began and all rumors were stumped. David Villa was the one to be sold, and the money Barcelona spent on Sanchez in 2011 to bring him over from Udinese (€26 million) wasn’t going to be used for only two seasons. At his best, Alexis might be one of the more versatile wingers in the world. The problem is bringing him to that place.
The same goes for Pedro, who is a homegrown player, but had his Premier League interest and links during the late stages of the season, but unlike Sanchez, there wasn’t a real risk of him finding a new place to play in. It’s about returning to the place he was in before his injury – not just a guaranteed spot in the lineup, but being influential on the attacking game as a finisher like before.
For both, it’s about hoping that all the flair, glamour and attention pointed at and coming from Lionel Messi and Neymar doesn’t cause them to be cast aside.