In the summer of 2007, the life of Pedro Rodríguez took a complete turn. The player from Tenerife had completed his second season with the youth club Barça C, when the second team, Barça B, was relegated and the third team was disbanded. Pedro found himself in the group of players which the club looked upon as its new destiny. However, an internal report indicated that Pedro trained better than he competed, and the intention of the club was to loan him out to second-division club Portuense. In stepped Pep Guardiola, the new coach of Barça B, who rescued Pedro for his “project.” But without the confidence of Juan Carlos Pérez Rojo, his youth coach until he was 17, Pedro’s current success would have been much more difficult.
Recently Pedro sat down with his former youth coach, “Txetxu” Rojo (who now works as the sporting director for Santboià) for an interview with Jordi Gil of Catalán Sports paper Sport.
Three yeas ago, could you have imagined that you would be at such a high point?
Pedro: It was very difficult, although I always had hopes and aspirations. It was very complicated. Luckily, things have gone well and I hope they continue like this.
What type of player was he when he started at Barcelona?
Rojo: Pedro came from the island to a very distinct city and a great club and was homesick. Little by little, he settled in with his teammates and had a very good year with Juvenil.
What did you find the most difficult?
Pedro: What Txetxu said, the adaptation. I wasn’t used to a lot of things. From leaving my family, to the changes in style of play, to the Catalán language, everything had an influence. I got over it with help from everyone, my teammates, the “mister,” and the people of the Masía.
Did he also have this shyness in the playing field?
Rojo: Goodness, no! I had to hold him back in the one on one . . . away from the field he could be shy, but on the field he has always been brave enough to dribble around or to try a bicycle kick.
What a great year with the Juvenil; they achieved the “triplete” that no one has been able to equal!
Rojo: It was very nice. We had a great team and we won everything. The problem came in the two following years with Barça C. They were horrible. we all suffered a lot. This helped him to tough up. he knew to take the positive part from the year in Juventil and the harshness from the third league. Later, he came to an impasse with the disappearance of Barça C, and Pedro could have left for Portuense.
Did Barça have the intention to loan you to the Andalusian team?
Pedro: They talked of this. I was seeing that the season wasn’t going well and I was afraid that, maybe, I would be able to continue. But I always had a lot of confidence, although many didn’t know what we would do.
Did the arrival of Guardiola save your career?
Pedro: it’s true that he decided to have confidence in me. I had doubts about whether I would continue with the team because of the circumstances, but the “mister” arrived and had confidence in me. He told me that I would start with them and they would pay close attention to my development. I got my act together, continued working as always, and the truth is that everything turned out fine.
There was a report that said Pedro trained better than he competed. Do you agree?
Rojo: You play like you train, and if you take it as a joke, then later you do nothing. This was not in the least his case.
Pedro: In the trainings I always intend to do things well and stay focused. I put the same effort and aspirations in the trainings as I do the games, although sometimes maybe it doesn’t go as well.
As such, he was close to leaving. Now, he’s the only player of yours in the elite.
Rojo: This happens in all teams. If Pep had not had confidence in him, he would have gone to Portuenese. Because of his quality, he was able to be in the first team, but to assure it was difficult. I said this six months ago, with all due respect to Robinho, that it wasn’t necessary that he come because Pedro was there. He knows the place, knows what is Barcelona, is super-integrated, and does all the kicks he wants with either leg.
Had he always scored decisive goals?
Rojo: No, it was his signature still to come. he was not a goal scorer but was a better passer. Now he has more experience and he is achieving a phenomenal form. He is learning, he knows to face the goal and now he doesn’t fail like he did two years ago. He needed to make more moves to throw off the goalkeeper. Now, he does it perfectly, like you saw him do against Sporting. I’m not saying that he’s going to score 30 goals, but he’s very complete.
Was believing in yourself the most difficult thing?
Pedro: It can be. When I arrived the competition was huge and complicated. Now, I train everyday to be a starting player. You don’t train to just be on the bench. I’m next to some world-class cracks, and I should learn and make the most of the opportunities.
Rojo: What he has is a great respect towards his teammates who have been professionals for 12 or 13 years, and at the same time he has confidence in himself.
What anecdote do you remember with special fondness?
Rojo: I remember a day at Ciudad Deportiva where Víctor Sánchez was. I told him to not let himself be down, that he would make it, to not be discouraged because he had all of the qualities needed to succeed. The process was fairly logical because whatever player that arrives at Barcelona has to learn that here it’s not just playing and competing, but also winning.
Pedro: The worst was in Third Division because we did everything well but the results didn’t come.
Rojo: Yes, Pedro had to defend corners at the near post!
Despite the adversities, Pedro always emphasizes Rojo as one of the keys to his success.
Pedro: You have to be appreciative of the people that want to give you heart.