Chelsea and Manchester United have had contrasting summer transfer windows to varying degrees but the sense of discontent among the fans of both clubs is something which is a similarity at the two giants of the Premier League after the two-month long window slammed shut Tuesday evening.
While Chelsea fans lamented their club’s failure to proactively add to the squad that won the league title on a canter last season, the Manchester United faithful were left disappointed with the lack of direction in the Red Devils’ summer activity which saw their struggling forward line dwindle further.
Amid all the hysteria surrounding the summer business at both clubs, Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal have spent millions in bringing in attacking reinforcements in the later parts of the transfer window. Pedro will be regarded as the Blues flagship signing, while the lesser-known Frenchman Anthony Martial will be held in a similar regard for United.
While Chelsea snatched Pedro – who ended his 11-year association with Barcelona – from under the noses of Manchester United, the Red Devils made Martial the most expensive teenager ever in world football when he arrived at Old Trafford on deadline day. Impact-wise, the Spaniard has stormed out of the blocks in little to no time, while Martial is yet to train with his new team-mates.
Although fans might argue Chelsea got the better deal and a proven top level performer in Pedro over Manchester United’s Martial, conclusive comparisons could barely be reached at at this transitional juncture in both players’ careers. However, with age on his side and the world at his feet, Martial could just about edge Pedro on who-got-the-better-talent grounds.
While Pedro’s experience and achievements border on the superlative, having won numerous honours during his time at Barcelona and with the Spain national team, it is hard to envisage and expect unexpected and better things from him at his age, now 28. Teams could easily figure out his tools and be better equipped to deal with one who will be a predictable player at the very least.
And there is also the chance of his early good performances tailing off after the first few months when the initial bubble bursts as was the case last season with his Chelsea team-mate Cesc Fabregas, and also of some of the recent arrivals in the Premier League from Spain, which include the likes of Jesus Navas and Roberto Soldado, while Diego Costa’s struggles this season could also be a pointer.
All of which takes our attention to the relatively unheralded Martial, who was called up to the France national team set-up only last week. His senior appearances and goals and assists are modest for someone who cost £36m, but what he brings to Manchester United’s rusty front line is the unpredictability factor.
Very little heard of in top level football – even United captain Wayne Rooney hadn’t heard of him prior to his arrival – Martial brings about a sense of the unknown to the Red Devils’ attack apart from his regular attributes of speed and technical ability. United’s goal return (3 goals in 4 games) in the league this season is a poor reflection of their domination of possession (60 percent on average), and most of the blame has went their forwards’ way.
While this in no way asserts the fact Martial will be an unqualified success and Pedro will be a big name flop, the Frenchman’s only way to move is upwards at this stage of his career. Meanwhile, Pedro at his age is in the best phase of a footballer’s career, but the fact he has seen it all and done it before tends to put a few things into perspective.
Pedro is one of the finest modern day examples of player development, but since winning the treble with Barcelona in his debut campaign and multiple winners medals later, there is a sense the only way for the Spaniard now is down, as players normally complete their development curves by their late 20s. Which is exactly opposite to the situation with Martial.
The ex-Monaco man is on the opposite end of the spectrum to Pedro, and will probably make his national team bow during the ongoing international break. The youngster has years ahead of him, to showcase his talked-about talents and prove why he commanded such a hefty price. In the short term, the picture looks brighter for Chelsea with Pedro, where Martial also comes in with a fair shout.
Whereas in the longer term, the advantage clearly lies with Manchester United if – and it’s a big if – Martial fulfills his promise and realizes his potential the way Pedro did while at Barcelona. The only way for the Frenchman is up, and loss of form or not, time definitely is on Martial’s side.
And while definitive conclusions are premature at this stage, a good barometer to assess the two new signings will be how influential they can become for their respective national teams at next summer’s Euro 2016. Pedro moved to Chelsea to improve his chances of making it into the Spain squad, while Martial’s move to a top club means he will be visiting Clairefontaine with the national team more frequently.