Jose Mourinho’s team’s whistle-stop Los Angeles 11 day pre-season tour came to an end late on Sunday night, and close victories over Club America and David Beckham’s LA Galaxy, respectively, have given Real Madrid’s new Coach much food for thought.
Amid conjecture of international talent available at the Santiago Bernabeu, it has been Pedro Leon, a surprise summer signing who has caught the eye. The 23 year-old new recruit from Madrid’s downtown suburb rival Getafe scored a delicate chipped shot winner against the ‘Galaxy’ at The Home Depot Center. Employed as an old fashioned winger, taking a hold of the hugging the touchline mantra, Los Blancos’s new No 21 has flourished in Coach Mourinho’s 4-4-2 system.
Leon, who started his career at relative Spanish footballing minnows Murcia, harnessed himself as a pivotal figure in Los Pimentoneros promotion to La Liga in 2007, courting the apparent interest of his current club then. The wide man did not see through the progress made at his maiden club, with Levante UD snapping up the midfielder on their return to Spain’s top footballing tier. This stay, however, was a short one. Lacking the quality, intensity and consistency needed to starve off the threat of relegation, the Levante ship soon sunk without trace in a season ending with 20th placed finish. And as for Leon, the Real Madrid player failed to settle at the Estadi Ciutat de Valencia, putting his career, momentarily at least, on the back foot. At this stage, Leon appeared to have ridden ahead of steam as far as his ambitions lay, but Valladolid came calling and he was soon basking in the Primera Division sunshine again.
A steady campaign in a rather unflustered XI meant his dream move to Madrid (one which he has stated has been his premium career objective) was on the cards. The footballing Gods dictated he had a spell at Madrid based Getafe first, however. Under the formidable guidance of Michel, once a Los Blancos idol who himself was a goalscoring right midfielder during his 14 year stay in the Capital, Leon shined. Nevertheless, even after such a fruitful term few had expected Real Madrid to show such concrete interest. The Whites, as unpredictable as ever honed in their interest after the season’s climax, securing the Spaniard’s signature in mid-July in a move Leon found it difficult to contemplate the magnitude of in his head.
Much in the Mourinho mould, Pedro Leon possesses an array of attributes seen as the day to day requirement of a modern athlete. His pace, strong physical build, solid work rate and an ability to conjure up an important goal or two make Leon a worthwhile asset to Real Madrid. Mourinho, thus far in pre-season has been building a team with not just the will to attack, but to defend as well. In a similar fashion to the sides he constructed at Inter and Chelsea, the gifted Portuguese Coach has been employing a flat back four, with two central midfield players and two wide men on the flanks. As far as the attacking point to his new team goes, Mourinho has favored an out and out front man in the form of a Gonzalo Higuain or Karim Benzema, and has opted for a player positioned just behind the former, which has been who else but star player Cristiano Ronaldo. The new set-up has given wholesale opportunity for Leon to play in his preferred right midfield role, where his box-to-box running style has come to fruition quickly in a midfield where he can trust the technical prowess of those around him to aid his delivery.
Whether or not Leon will be a regular starter in Mourinho’s team next season remains a topic of discussion, but his direct running and goal threat from the wing could make it difficult for Real Madrid management to leave him out. The acquisition of Angel di Maria stirs up a certain amount of competition in the Madrid midfield, but there is a feeling the modest, workmanlike quality of Leon sits well with Mourinho as he looks to design a competitive team rather than one full of individual promise. With Bayern Munich – The Whites next pre season workout on the horizon – Leon has another chance to test his Bernabeu credentials against stiffer opposition.