Before Spain's friendly with Saudi Arabia the focus was on two forwards whose names will always be firmly associated with Spain's most successful period yet.
Fernando Torres made his 100th appearance for his country and was handed the captain's armband to mark the occasion. Meanwhile, shortly after half-time, Spain welcomed back David Villa, their all-time top goalscorer, to make his first appearance in the red of La Roja for 10 months and to mark his return from injury with the team’s fourth goal from five netted last night.
However, it was the scorer of the second and fifth goals who proved to be the outstanding performer in Pontevedra and the forward worthy of note at full-time. Pedro Rodriguez created the opening goal and then added two brilliantly taken strikes of his own to cap a performance which showed he has just as much a right to a place in Del Bosque's starting line-up as either Torres or Villa.
The 25-year-old has often been seen as a wide player whose role is to supply others, but yesterday he showed his own potential in front of goal, for latching on to chances created by others. For Spain's opener, he picked the ball up on the left hand side more than 30 yards out, attacked the space in front of him and cut inside, beating a defender before firing a shot at goal, which Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Waleed Abdullah could only parry into the path of Santi Cazorla, who lapped up the rebound.
Pedro's move was one that Cristiano Ronaldo has almost turned into a trademark and from 20 minutes of very little to show for La Roja’s possession, it was a directness that the team benefited from on Friday evening.
The goals that Pedro scored himself then demonstrated rediscovered and indeed improved on confidence in front of goal. For his first and Spain's second he raced on to a through-ball by Cazorla, took a touch with his right before lifting the ball over the ‘keeper with his left foot into the net. It was a finish that oozed confidence, and above all, class.
His second and Spain's final goal was similar, albeit further up the pitch. This time it was a through-ball from David Silva which Pedro latched on to, reacting quickly to the advancing Abdullah by taking just one touch to dink the ball over the goalkeeper, this time with his right foot. It was another clever finish, one we see Lionel Messi pull off routinely and one we used to associate with Torres.
Pedro often scores by cutting inside from the flanks, his goals being simple finishes buried into the bottom corner, like against Manchester United in the 2011 Champions League final, or against Real Madrid in the first leg of this year's Supercopa de Espana. His two goals on Friday were majestic, that more identifiable with another player. Moreover, his overall performance showed he may have a more central role in Spain’s attack in the near future.
Pedro has had a peripheral role for Spain since the end of 2011, and did not start a single game at Euro 2012. Indeed, his inclusion in Vicente del Bosque’s squad itself was somewhat surprising, given his poor form during 2011-12. It was a fall from grace considering his key role towards the end of the World Cup, when he set up Villa’s winner in the quarter-final against Paraguay and was rewarded with a place in the starting line-up for the semi-final and final itself.
Of course, the game with Saudi Arabia was only a friendly against a team ranked 105th in the world. But Pedro’s performance did not come out of nowhere – he has started 2012-13 showing he means business, determined to win back a starting place both for club and country. In Barcelona’s opening game of the season against Real Sociedad he linked up brilliantly with Cristian Tello and Messi, creating the Argentine’s first goal with a lay-off and then appearing at the back post to stab home Tello’s cross for Barca’s fourth, again showing his improved instinct in the area. He put in another good performance in the first leg of the Supercopa de Espana, scoring Barca’s equaliser, and whilst he was then dropped for the visit to Osasuna, the Catalans really struggled until he came off the bench with half an hour to go.
Will Pedro become a key player for Spain once again? He's still just 25, three years younger than Torres and six younger than Villa. Although Torres is not the lost cause he appeared to be 12 months ago, he is far from the player he was.
Tuesday’s relatively straightforward trip to Georgia presents Del Bosque with an opportunity to give Pedro his first start in a competitive game for Spain since October 2011. In this form, he would be crazy not to.