Gerard Pique is a person full of surprises. At 23, the FC Barcelona central defender is cheeky be it on or off the pitch. He is a daring person, trying almost anything, including writing a book: ‘Viatge d’anada i tornada’-Viaje de ida y vuelta - An extraordinary experience 0f a player who, in his own way, breaks stereotypes.
Below is an interview he gave to Catalan sports paper Sport.
We are not accustomed to successful young players writing books. How did you get the idea?
I have always written letters, short stories about things that have happened to me. On the occasion of the Champions League final I wrote an article and thought ‘spill it all out now in a book or I never will’. The opportunity arose and there it is.
Some people will think it is a bit daring to write the story of a boy of 23 years.
That’s beside the point. This is not a biography or anything like that. It is nothing of that sort.
Then, please elaborate more. To whom is the book intended?
It tells the story of a dream fulfilled. The adventures of a boy who above all wants to play some day in the first team of Barca. And in the end he succeeds, but along the way a lot of things happen to him, like having to go to Manchester United.
It is not about revealing juicy passages, but about how you have met great people like Sir Alex Ferguson, for example.
It tells about the type of person he is. It portrays him as a frosty man yet full of character – affectionate and very intimate.
He did not give you as much playing time as you would have wished.
That is true. And yet I don’t have any complaints. I put it all in the book. On a personal level, he always behaved like a gentleman.
Is he as peculiar as people say he is?
Let me tell you a story that is not in the book. Sir Alex Ferguson had just turned 65 and had applied for his pension; little more than a thousand pounds. The press criticised him a lot for that and before a game, while we were waiting for him to give the team-talk, he took us into the locker room and start telling how he did not understand the reason why some journalists criticised him. He was of the age where the state should look after him, he has worked hard to earn it, so why wasn’t he eligible to collect his dues. It’s that plain and simple.
The following question has to be answered. How does Guardiola compare to him?
Footballing-wise Pep has given me everything. I can never thank him enough for taking a risk on me. I knew that back then, my arrival back to Barca was unusual as I had barely played for Manchester United (in my time there).
Guardiola does not have it all clear-cut at times, does he?
I am aware of what he faces perfectly. It’s never easy to take charge of a locker room. There are all these young people; all sorts of things happen at one time and it is easy to lose sight of the world sometimes.
Are you talking about your own experience?
Yes, like what I went through. And I thank people like Pep who took me in. Sometimes things like these are forgotten.
In this line of work, there’s no escaping attending major occasions … that required the presence of the Civil Guard (police escorts).
It happened a few years back and we got a little scared. It was all so ridiculously frightening though nothing happened.
Louis Van Gaal, another legendary coach... How will a kid react in the presence of such a figure when he is told ‘You’re not tough enough to be a central defender’?
It was one of those experiences that left its mark on me. Seeing him coming to La Masia was incredible, but the jolt he gave me through his words I will never forget. I almost dropped to the floor (from meeting him), then came those famous words. Over the years, when we met he has always been very kind to me.
Let’s return to the book. What do you remember about the day you cried over losing a game?
It was the only time that had happened. It was in the Brunete Tournament. It’s very special for children … your family is there, the television … and we lost to Real Madrid. It was very hard, and I think we all ended up in tears.
Barcelona, Manchester, Zaragoza, Manchester, Barcelona and then the unforgettable 2009; a meteoric career despite your young age.
Like I said, everything takes place very quickly, almost without time to digest it.
And after all that you return home to a locker room a little like ‘paradise’ – taking your words for it in the book.
In this locker room, the football quality depends as much as on the people in it.
You speak of the good humour of people like Ibrahimovic, Touré or other players whose profiles are not exactly similar to yours.
It is not easy to get to know people. Everyone sees things differently, and sometimes it does not conform to reality. That may be the case for a very funny guy such as Ibra, ‘Obama’ Touré Yaya and Victor Valdes. They are very nice people and love pranks.
I don’t want to spill the book’s content, but you played a prank that almost cost Xavi Hernandez his car.
It was funny. Jorqui and I nearly pissed ourselves laughing. To sum it up somehow, I would only say that we invite an individual to be present at a training session and that Xavi would then be giving him the official (Ed. sponsored) car provided to us. Seeing poor Xavi’s face shouting that a crazy person came looking for his car was priceless.
When will your next book be due?
This is shelved for now. I’m still taking notes, but nothing more.