Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 September 2019

When a club like Manchester United comes calling, you answer, as Pedro may regret not doing

In his weekly column, Diego Forlan recounts the process that led to his own transfer to Manchester United and questions Pedro's decision to sign with Chelsea, a club that simply can't match United's stature.
Pedro, who signed for Chelsea on Thursday, had played for Barcelona since 2008, making 204 league appearances for the club. Ander Gillenea / AFP
Pedro, who signed for Chelsea on Thursday, had played for Barcelona since 2008, making 204 league appearances for the club. Ander Gillenea / AFP

Without a win in their first three matches, champions Chelsea have not started the Premier League season well. They were well beaten by one of their title rivals Manchester City and they’re already five points behind both Manchester clubs.

They looked like they need players and, when a club is owned by one person as they are, they can act very quickly and do something about it, especially if the transfer window is still open.

Big clubs with one rich owner have been one of the main changes in football since I started playing.

Strange things happen at the end of the transfer window too. Clubs wait to see how their season has started and then have the option of doing something about it.

Pedro was reportedly going to Manchester United for the last month, but United didn’t complete the deal.

Maybe they have a plan B, maybe they are more relaxed after winning their first three matches. They wouldn’t be relaxed if they had one point from six like Chelsea.

If United were desperate for Pedro, a very good player, then they would’ve signed him.

United fans should trust their manager; he’s the one who’ll live or die by his decisions. And it’s not like Pedro is the only good player who is available in the world.

As a player, if a club is desperate to sign you then you can benefit from that. Desperate clubs are prepared to pay more money, they are prepared to act decisively and play you.

Sometimes hurried decisions work out and appear inspired, sometimes they show that they were rushed, but it is a gamble whenever any club signs any player.

Chelsea need results now, they will not catch a team if they’re 10 points behind. In signing Pedro, they’re buying him to play now.

Which means it looks like it’s going to be difficult for two Colombian players I rate, Radamel Falcao and Juan Cuadrado, but that is for Jose Mourinho to work out.

As a player, I know who’d I’d choose if Manchester United and Chelsea came in for me. One is one of the three clubs biggest in the world; the other is a club who’ve grown because of a rich owner. But I always remember my old captain Roy Keane before a game against Tottenham Hotspur.

He said: “Tottenham think they’re a big club and they are in London, but they’re not really a big club, they don’t compare to United.”

Chelsea are the same. When I moved to England they were not a team which came close to winning big trophies. Money changed them.

I’ve seen the argument that London is more attractive to players than Manchester. If a player wants to go shopping in Harrods then that might be the case, but the players I know want to play football. Manchester can get a bad press. It shouldn’t. It’s a good city to live in, with great people. The airport has a lot of flights around the world, with just a single connection for most places. And because it’s not London, you don’t have to deal with London’s airports. And it’s not like any foreign player is going to live there forever.

But the transfer window is crazy and technology has made it crazier. There’s so much junk speculation out there ... to feed the demand for junk speculation.

I’ve seen myself linked to clubs where there has not been a shred of truth in the story. Since the age of 20, I’ve ignored them all.

If my brother or agent calls me to say that a club is interested then I take notice. If not, I ignore it. There are agents who claim to represent you, clubs who leak false stories about signing you to excite fans and journalists who write stories that are simply not true.

And then there are journalists who write stories which are true – at least at the time – because transfers can change quickly.

In 2002, I was playing for Independiente and knew that Manchester United were interested in me; we had arranged a meeting. Then Middlesbrough approached my agent, they wanted to see me before United.

Sir Alex Ferguson found out about this. One day, I got a phone call while I was in the bathroom. My roommate was sleeping on the bed so I was quiet. I could understand English from a very early age, but I could barely understand the man on the phone. He was speaking really fast with a very strong accent.

I’d been taught English by people who spoke with very clear accents! I made a great effort to understand and worked out that he wanted me to play for him. “We want you,” he said.

“It’s not just interest. We want you. You can be a great player for us. Wait for us. You will play for Manchester United.”

It was Ferguson. I didn’t say much in reply and I wasn’t absolutely convinced that it was him. I called my agent to confirm the caller’s identity and he said it was.

A few weeks later I arrived at Old Trafford after an overnight flight via an awkward connection in London. He was waiting for me in Manchester.

But before that, in London, I was being filmed by people who didn’t know if I was going to Middlesbrough or not.

But I was always going to Manchester, a city which would become my home. I didn’t regret that. I hope Pedro doesn’t regret his decision.

sports@thenational.ae

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Updated: August 20, 2015 04:00 AM

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