Flamengo’s top striker is the expected new addition to Brazil coach Tite’s list to play in the last preparation matches before the World Cup, starting with Friday night’s match in Le Havre against Ghana ( 8:30 p.m.). At 25, the center-forward with an atypical profile is described by the whole country as a player who is “neither a very fast guy, nor a good dribbler”. It doesn’t matter, he may be a starter at the top of the Selection this winter in Qatar.
The scene takes place in a VTC, in São Paulo. The conversation, as often, revolves around football, and quickly turns to the World Cup. “I think Pedro should be there. Gabriel Jesus, he’s been here for years, he doesn’t do anything. , lets go of the driver. No supporterism here, the driver is a supporter of Corinthians, a club eliminated this year from the Libertadores by Pedro’s Flamengo. “I love Titus, what he did at the Corinthians (which he brought to the grail of the Libertadores in 2012, editor’s note), but he has his heads. » However, the Brazil coach gave up on Friday, September 9. He called up Pedro for the last preparation matches for the World Cup, finally surrendering to the evidence in front of the performances of the number 21 of the Fla and leaving aside… Gabriel Jesus.
Unanimity in Brazil
Because the opinion of our pilot, pronounced a few days before the summons, is not unfounded. Pedro, in 2022, has scored 12 goals in 12 Copa Libertadores games, a total of 24 pawns in 53 games, already more than in 2020, his most prolific season. Even more than numbers, the 25-year-old striker impresses in the game. “He is having an excellent season, and it is impossible to say anything else. He is decisive, especially in big games. describes Léticia Marques, Flamengo specialist for Globo Sports. To the point of being unanimous well beyond the Maracanã. After a hat-trick from Pedro in the Libertadores semi-finals, Tiago Salazar, journalist and columnist specializing in Corinthians coverage, launched on Twitter: “Discussing Pedro’s call-up seems to me already a thing of the past, (…) the question is: should Pedro be the holder of the Seleção for the World Cup? » Contacted by us, Tiago argues: “I tweeted this because we don’t have an indisputable number 9 in Seleção, as we used to with Careca, Romário, Ronaldo. Pedro is performing well this season and if no one stands out, he deserves his chance, there’s no doubt about it. »
Line by line, Brazil is solid, a very serious candidate for this World Cup, with sure values. In goal, two of the best goalkeepers in the world (Alisson and Ederson) are vying for the starting spot. The defense is well in place with three centrals for two positions (Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Militão), Danilo holds the rope on the right, Telles and Sandro are fighting over the left flank. In the middle for three positions, we have Fabinho, Paquetá, Fred, Casemiro (as well as Guimarães). On the wings, the choice is almost Cornelian: Neymar, Antony, Raphinha, Vinicius Jr. But in front? Tite has already tested Gabriel Jesus, Matheus Cunha, Gabigol, Richarlison and even Neymar. During his last interview, a few days before the September 9 list, Tite described the use he wanted to make of the Ney in Qatar: “In the axis, that’s for sure, not on one side. With him, at least two attackers and a midfielder who projects himself. In front, there may be Gabriel Jesus, or Richarlison. » The coach does not exclude compositions with a false 9, but prefers, in big games, to play with a point. Gabriel Jesus aside, and if Pedro… Problem: even if the other potential attackers of the Selection did not provide immense guarantees, the Flamengista has almost no experience with the national team. Two months before the competition, skeptics are wondering: is it really the time to try something new, when Brazil, since the last World Cup, has a record of 36 wins for 9 draws and 3 defeats? “The player who plays in Europe, he also naturally has a better rating here, not necessarily rightlyadds Pedrinho, former player and one of the best consultants in the country (on TV Globo). The quality of play is obviously better in the major European leagues, which sometimes makes us underestimate the potential of certain players in the Brazilian league. »
Tortuous path in club
Pedro is not obvious, despite a talent that has always been recognized: he does not have the status of “crack”. “He is neither a very fast guy nor a good dribbler” , summarizes Tiago Salazar. This is one of the reasons why he only donned the legendary gold and green jersey once. It was November 13, 2020, for the last 14 minutes of a victory against Venezuela (CDM playoffs, 1-0). The other reason is that Pedro is struggling to establish himself in the club. Trained at Fluminense (Flamengo’s rival), he was bought by Fiorentina in 2019 (11 million euros) not to play there: four appearances in six months. During the winter transfer window, the Fla throws itself on the one who was already a great hope for Brazilian football. “It is one of the most expensive transactions in the history of the club. (14 million euros) » , says Leticia Marques. A successful 2020 season, even if he does not always start the matches, opens the doors to the Selection and then… nothing. Pedro remains a substitute at the club behind Gabriel Barbosa Almeida, known as “Gabigol”, star of the Rouge et Noir. In the summer of 2021, a wave of “Free Pedro” swept through the Brazilian internet, the club was the subject of criticism. “He had no playing time, yet the club refused to release him for the Olympics. He wasn’t happy at all on a personal level either.” adds the journalist of Globe. Thousands of Internet users then offer transfer destinations, criticize the management of the Rio club, protest against this wasted talent. In November, Flamengo loses the Libertadores final against Palmeiras, Pedro sits on the bench, does not play a minute. At the start of 2022, this Palmeiras made a huge offer to Fla (20 million euros) for the striker. Offer refused. “Abandoning such a large investment is out of the question, especially to a direct rival” , explains Leticia Marques. He does not become a starter, however, and begins the 2022 season as a luxury replacement for Gabigol. Departure impossible, change in the hierarchy unlikely, Pedro is in the pincers, until a saving arrival.
Dorival stops migraines
On June 10, 2022, Doríval Junior replaced Paulo Sousa as Flamengo’s head coach. The technician with the face and the rectangular glasses unblocks the situation. “So far, none of Pedro’s coaches at Flamengo thought it was possible to line him up with Gabigol, it was either one or the other.says Leticia Marques. But Dorival Junior, on arriving, very quickly had a conversation with Pedro, guaranteeing him that he would be used, that he had to stay at the club. » Dorival dialogues with Gabigol and other locker room executives, in particular attacking talents (De Arrascaeta, Everton Ribeiro). He convinces everyone to adapt his game to make room for Pedro. Gabriel has reinvented himself to form this attacking duo, and it works. Of the 29 matches played since the arrival of Dorival, Pedro has played 26, including 16 as a starter, including all the final phase matches of Libertadores, the major competition and the club’s No. 1 objective. During the 24 games he played under the orders of Dorival Junior, Pedro scored 16 goals, for 7 assists. Three months after the change of coach, Tite summons Pedro.
Three days before revealing his list, the coach auriverde was invited by TNT Sports. : “He’s a guy who has the typical characteristics of number 9. The 2022 version of Fred is Pedro. He is a last ball, finishing player. » Without being either very fast or very strong in one-on-one situations, Pedro is seen as an old-fashioned top striker. “Strong in the air, strong in pivot, with a refined technique, an excellent science of placement” describes Tiago Salazar. “He is a born centre-forward, he is lethal in the area” , adds Leticia Marques. A sort of Brazilian Olivier Giroud? “In all honesty, for me, he is better than Giroudexplains Pedrinho calmly.What Tite likes about him is the intelligence of the game, the fact of creating space for others through his movements, of thinking about the game in general. » As for Flamengo fans, we prefer to compare him to Marseillais Gerson. Gerson who also failed to break through in Italy. Gerson who also returned to play in Brazil, at Flamengo, winning several trophies before crossing the Atlantic with more success. Pedro has reportedly received interest from Spanish, English and Portuguese clubs. According to some well-informed sites, the potential sale price would have been set at 50 million euros.
On September 7, 1822, Pedro Ier proclaimed in São Paulo the independence of Brazil and became its first emperor. On September 9, 2022, two centuries and two days later, a namesake with bleached hair made his return to the selection. The country dreams of finding in Pedro Guilherme Abreu Dos Santos its surface emperor.
By Alexandre Berthaud, in São Paulo