FC Barcelona defender Gerard Pique sat down for an interview late last week with Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo. The conversation included a variety of topics such as Ibrahimovic, the Champions League and of course, Real Madrid.
The league starts tomorrow in Santander. How is the team feeling at the start of the campaign?
We feel great. It was a strange pre-season but we have adapted well and we’re ready to win our first game.
Is it hard to find motivation after having won the World Cup?
No, the World Cup could only affect us physically but we’re okay. We won’t lack motivation because the league has started and it’s always nice to win the first game. We’ve had time to enjoy our successes and now it’s time to concentrate on the new season. It was said that we’d lack motivation after the treble and we ended up winning four titles last season.
Did you ever think you’d be a world champion one day?
Nobody imagines it. It’s an objective that you want to accomplish once in your lifetime. When you’re there you don’t think about it much because you have to take it step by step.
And to win it with seven Barca teammates plus your friend Cesc…
That made it even better. You’ve known these people for so long and you make history with them. It’s amazing. It is even more enjoyable due to how we played, always remaining faithful to our style.
What will be the hardest title this season?
All of them will be difficult. The league, the King’s Cup and the Champions League. The most important thing is to face the season with everyone in good shape and few injuries. Even during the tough points of the season we need to be able to come out ahead. If you start to slow down everything can be lost in a month.
At 23 years old you could win your third consecutive league title with Barca as well as your third Champions League. Do you feel privileged?
You always have to try and outdo yourself. If you have the option to do it at such a young age you have to take advantage of it. A player’s career is judged on how many trophies he or she has won. I’ve been lucky enough to play on great teams and for that I can’t complain.
Every cule has May 28th marked on their calendar. That’s the date that Barca could win the Champions Leauge in London. Do you feel like you still owe it to the fans?
Yes. The loss against Inter was painful to all of us. It was a tough day and we’ll give it our all to win it again.
If Barca wins a third consecutive league it will be only the second time in the club’s history. Is that the best way to prolong this era and give a mortal blow to Real Madrid?
It would be the next step. The era will be over when we stop winning but we’ll keep trying for sure. We are always trying to outdo ourselves. And that is what we want to do; continue to win league trophies in order to eclipse the ‘Dream Team’.
Is Real Madrid a tougher opponent this year?
They will continue to get better every year. Our goal is to be better than the rest so that we can continue winning.
Does Mourinho give you more motivation?
He’s a new coach. Madrid tries many alternatives in order to win titles because they’ve gone two years without one. Mourinho is just another alternative.
Do you think that the Real-Barca match in May will be as decisive as it has been over the last two years?
That’s what it looks like but it’s possible that it won’t be the case.
It’s not that it motivates us. It benefits the press because controversy sells more magazines and it’s easier to talk about that than it is to talk about normal things. It doesn’t matter to us. Valdes reminded us on Monday that we are the ones playing the games. The coaches give their instructions but it’s up to the players to carry out those orders.
How is the team handling the pressure coming from the press in Madrid?
They say that we talk about them but we only answer questions that we are asked. We would prefer to talk about ourselves.
Is beating Madrid in the Bernabeu the best answer to all of the controversy that they stir up?
The game lasts 90 minutes. Everything before that isn’t as important. People talk about each other but in the end it’s important to play and see who is better on the field.
Does the team really not talk about the continuous attacks coming from the capitol?
This has been happening for so many years that we’re used to it. The best thing to do is to not get caught up in it all. It’s a waste of time to talk about it.
Have they made you lose your sense of humor and become more serious?
Sometimes you aren’t as cheerful as others but it isn’t that big of a deal. The first year is difficult but after that you become accustomed to it.
You seem very focused when you step onto the field. Do you have some sort of routine or superstition that you do before the games?
I always step onto the field with my right foot and play with long sleeves.
You seem very serious…
It’s one thing to joke around in the locker room and another to prepare for a game.
How is it going with Villa and Adriano? Have you played any jokes on them?
Not yet (smiles). Villa already knows me from the national team.
Last year you said that you’d play a “welcoming prank” on Ibra and that it would be a long year for him. Have you already done it?
Yes but I won’t say what it is. I have a very good relationship with him.
What do you think about the declarations that Zlatan made on Wednesday?
Everyone expresses how they feel and Zlatan said what he believed. Obviously there are things that should stay more in the locker room but there are people that want to express it to the public and you have to respect that. His situation doesn’t look good but we’ll see how it ends.
Puyol said on Thursday that not even the captain speaks everyday with Guardiola. Do you talk much with him?
Nobody talks much with Guardiola. He usually addresses us as a group. If there isn’t something special to talk about then usually you don’t talk with him.
What do you think about the signing of Mascherano?
It’s a good signing. He’ll give us a lot of stability in the midfield. He’s the captain of Argentina, he’s been playing with Liverpool for many years and he’s got a lot of experience. He’s a good player and he’ll help us a lot.
You’ve only played against him at the national level but you know him from the Premier League. What did Sir Alex Ferguson say about him before the United-Liverpool matches?
We knew that he covered a lot of ground, that he defended well and that he’s good with the ball.
Although it isn’t as necessary now, were you ready to play as a pivot?
Yes, I’m happy to play anywhere the coach needs me. He decides and there has always been that option but I never ended up playing there.
You played there during your time at Real Zaragoza…
Yeah, I’ve played there several times. I felt okay although I’ve always played as a central defender and that is where I feel most comfortable.
And as a center forward against Inter…
When we’re desperate…
Now that Marquez and Chygrynskiy have left, do you realize you’ll have to play almost every game?
Yes, I hope that I’m not affected by injuries too much. I’m 23 years old which is a good age to play a lot.
Are three central defenders enough for the entire season?
There are only three but Abidal can fill in when needed as can the cantera.
There is a lot of confidence in the cantera!
We’re following the same path that got us here. Barca has been an example throughout the world over the last few years and we want to continue to do what got us here.
How are things going with President Rosell?
Very well although I haven’t had a chance to talk to him. We celebrated the league the other day on the field.
And how about Zubizarreta and Narcis Julia, who you played under in Zaragoza?
Things are well with Zubi and I’ve known Narcis Julia for a long time. He knows a lot about football and knows a lot of players. He’s been around for a long time and will help Zubi a lot.