Pedro to Chelsea: Jose Mourinho's personal intervention secured deal as Louis van Gaal dithered on Barcelona winger

Pedro had been linked with United deal all summer

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The Independent Online

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho’s personal intervention sealed a £21.1m deal to buy Barcelona winger Pedro, ahead of Manchester United who also look likely to be rejected by Southampton in their pursuit of the Senegal international Sadio Mané.

As things stand, Southampton are not interested in selling the 23-year-old Mané, who has three years left on his contract and is regarded as a key figure in their season. The talks between the clubs are not thought to have reached the point where an offer has been made, but Southampton do not believe that they have to sell, having made around £37m from the sales of Morgan Schneiderlin and Nathaniel Clyne this summer.

In the case of Pedro, Chelsea were confident that they had a deal agreed in principle with the player for some time. They were prepared to meet the £21.1m buyout clause in Pedro’s contract and were sure they had an understanding that he wanted to join them. Their interest was long-standing, dating back to January, although they have delayed in completing the deal over the summer.

A phone call from Mourinho to Pedro this week is understood to have made it clear to the player that Chelsea wanted him, while Louis van Gaal’s delay in making up his mind undermined the United bid.

 

United’s late intervention helped Chelsea, in that it tested Barcelona’s willingness to negotiate over the buyout clause. The Premier League champions are thought to have offered Barcelona €28m (£19.7m) plus €2m (£1.4m) add-ons for the player, while United’s offer was €25m (£17.6m) plus €5m (£3.5m) add-ons. Pedro is expected to have a medical at Cobham on Thursday.

Chelsea recognise that they need to strengthen their squad before the end of the transfer window and Pedro may not be the last major signing before September. The club’s owner, Roman Abramovich, has an interest in another high-profile target to make sure Mourinho’s squad has an edge this season that it has lacked in the two previous games. The club are confident that the low-key start – defeat in the Community Shield, and one point from their first two league games – can be remedied in time.

 

The move for Mané, who was signed by Southampton from Red Bull Salzburg for £10m last summer, reveals that United still feel that their squad lacks pace and a reliable Premier League goalscorer. Mané scored 10 in the league for Saints last season, having made his debut only in September. He scored a hat-trick in three minutes against Aston Villa in May. With a valuation of around £15m, his price is likely to rise with another good season behind him.

Van Gaal has been unsure for weeks about whether Pedro has the potential explosion of pace he has been looking for, since deciding to allow Angel Di Maria to leave for Paris Saint-Germain. But by failing to making his mind up, the Dutchman has subjected the club’s executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, to widespread criticism from United fans, who were anticipating the player’s arrival and will now expect a top-class creative player to be signed in the next 10 days.

Van Gaal’s prevarication – a trait for which his predecessor David Moyes was widely ridiculed – left United quibbling over the £3m differential between their own valuation of Pedro and his £21.1m release clause. A firm Van Gaal decision against buying the player could have meant Woodward avoiding a high-profile defeat to Chelsea in the transfer market. The size of the transfer fee and personal terms would never have presented a problem to United.

In the event, it had become increasingly clear in the past week that the winger’s prospects of a move to Old Trafford might be falling through. There had been a growing mood in Barcelona that the club might keep the player, whom they had no particular desire to sell. The uncertainty led to Pedro being fielded in the starting XI for Barcelona in the Super Cup against Atletico Bilbao on Monday. Chelsea were close to signing the player in January and followed through with the deal this week.

The former Barça striker Hristo Stoichkov last week warned Pedro not to join United, describing Van Gaal as “mediocre” and someone who “destroys” clubs.

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