The 'goal that never was' - catching up with former Spur Pedro Mendes
Wed 07 April 2021, 17:30|Tottenham Hotspur
Pedro Mendes might have spent just 18 months with us in north London between 2004 and 2006, but the extraordinary incident of his ‘goal that never was’ against Manchester United at Old Trafford left an indelible mark in Premier League history. Ahead of Sunday's visit of United, we caught up with our former midfielder to revisit that moment and ask what he's up to now...
A dogged opponent in the heart of midfield during his days on the pitch, Pedro now performs a similar role around the negotiating table as life after his playing days has taken him into the world of football agencies.
A talented passer of the ball, he began his professional career at his hometown club of Vitoria in Guimaraes in the late 1990s before making the move to Portuguese giants Porto in 2003, where he was coached by none other than Jose Mourinho. He might have played under Jose for just one season yet, in that campaign, he helped our current Head Coach to his first Champions League crown. The following summer though, the midfielder was on his way to north London as he joined us in July, 2004. His time here began brightly; he played in each of our opening 24 league games and then scored his first goal for the Club in a 5-2 win over Everton in January, 2005.
Then, just three days after that maiden strike, we headed to Old Trafford where Pedro’s iconic moment as a Spur occurred. Going into the game, we had never won a Premier League match at the Theatre of Dreams yet, with the game poised at 0-0 and 89 minutes on the clock, Manchester United goalkeeper Roy Carroll spilled the Portuguese international’s speculative long-range effort over the line and we thought we had the victory. However, with the ‘keeper having quickly scrambled the ball out of his net and away, the officials were unaware that the ball had indeed crossed the line, so they infamously decided not to award the goal. The game finished goalless.
Soon after that, injuries began to disrupt Pedro’s progress. The following season he struggled to hold down a place in the team before he left N17 for Portsmouth in January, 2006. He enjoyed two memorable years at Fratton Park, including a famous FA Cup win in 2008, before moving on to Rangers where he helped the Scottish giants to their 52nd League title. After his spell in Glasgow, the central midfielder returned to Portugal where he ran out for Sporting CP in the 2010/11 season before finishing his career back at Vitoria the following term. And it is in his hometown of Guimaraes where he continues to reside to this day as it was there that he set up his football agency just over six years ago.
“I came back home in 2011. My goal was to finish my career with my hometown team where it had all started when I was 10 years old, so I had one year there and now I am based in my town of Guimaraes. I opened my own football agency after that which has been going for about six or seven years,” the 42-year-old explained. “In this line of work, basically, I have busy months and then some very quiet months. We have December, January and February which are quite busy and then it starts again in May, and then you have June, July, August and September. Those are probably the main business months and then in the rest of the year, we are following our clients, meeting with clubs and players.
“It’s like everything in life. Some deals are easy to do, some are very difficult or frustrating because the deal may be almost done but then falls apart due to little details. When things are going close to the deadline, but something still needs to be discussed or agreed and you’re going against the clock, that can be quite stressful. You have to get the deal done as quickly as possible to keep your client happy but of course, after a certain level, things start getting stressful and more complicated to get a deal done. Sometimes the deal happens and sometimes it falls apart because terms are not agreed. That is a negotiation. That is business.
“When you’re a player, what you have to deal with in these situations is your expectations. When it is going on and you don’t see things going forward, you start to get impatient, you start calling your agency for news but sometimes there is no news to be given. The pandemic has brought us a new way to meet and to do deals. Now everything is zoom meetings and everything is online, on the phone or the computer. We can’t travel because of all the restrictions, the quarantine rules and the COVID tests that we have to do but, the business is still running - I didn’t stop.”
One of the biggest deals of Pedro’s playing career came as he made the move to White Hart Lane in 2004. Moving to north London from the Portuguese city of Porto, the midfielder made a fine start to life in the capital, but it was in January, 2005, where he really hit the headlines with the aforementioned controversy at Old Trafford. Had his goal been awarded in the game, it could have been significant for us in getting back into European competition. Instead, the incident became a seminal moment in the journey towards the long-awaited introduction of goal line technology.
“I knew the goalkeeper was outside his box because of the movement of the play and I knew if the ball came to me, the first thing I should do is aim for the goal,” he recalled. “Luckily the ball came into me and I just took the shot, took my chance to score. That was just my instinct. Actually, it turned out to be quite a decent shot but never mind! You could see it had crossed the line. You could see the goalie running back to his goal and you could see his feet on the goal line, so if the ball goes through him, it will be inside the goal. That was my feeling at the time. I can’t say I was 100 per cent sure the ball had crossed the line on the pitch, but I was almost sure. Then when I saw it on the TV it was actually... well, I have no words for that.”
Read Pedro's interview in full in our official matchday programme - available via the link below!