FC Barcelona central defender and Spanish international Gerard Piqué spoke recently to El Mundo Deportivo and Sport regarding his injury, his team’s problems in defense, what it’s like to play with Lionel Messi, and the importance of La Masia in the never-ending battle with Real Madrid. He even managed to comment on the fertility of his teammates.
“You can not have everything in this world”
The question on everyone’s minds revolves around the number of goals Tito Vilanova’s side has allowed into the net this season. With Piqué starting at the weekend against Mallorca, the center back provided plenty of relief for culés. Still, Barcelona allowed two goals and more criticism from the media. Some still wonder about his form this year and if he can be the stalwart he once was.
“This is not a question of emotion, but rather statistics. These are results. We see the team allows more goals and we have to analyze it. There are goals in which we have to improve and others in which it is a penalty and Busquets does not intend to handle the ball, but it’s a penalty and in the end it’s one more goal.”
“I believe we must improve defensively but also, we’re scoring many more goals and the team is much more offensive. You can not have everything in this world. The more goals you want to score and want to risk, the greater risk you run of getting scored on.”
As one of only two defenders in world football nominated for the Ballon d’Or (along with Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos), Piqué said he appreciated the nomination from a defender’s point of view despite it not being his best year.
“It’s not bad because it’s costly to nominate defenders. Those who get the awards and plaudits are the forwards and midfielders. It’s something very positive even though it has not been my best year. (FIFA) recognizes our hard work and that’s worth something.”
“Messi … an extraterrestrial”
The defender did however make clear that there was someone else more worthy of his vote.
“I am an unconditional fan of Leo. He has stolen my heart since we’ve known each other at 14 years old and I have not seen anyone better. To vote for anyone besides him would be difficult. No, I would not (vote for myself) because I don’t believe I have been the best. Messi is an extraterrestrial and Cristiano (Ronaldo) is the best among humans.”
Messi’s impeccable form has seen him demolish record after record this year, with Pelé’s 75 goals in a calendar year his most recent smash. And few players out there can claim to know first hand how special La Pulga really is.
“I will be able to tell my grandchildren I played with Messi. Not only as a professional, but since I was 14 years old. I have been able to see his growth from the cadet level to his jump to the professional level. He has surpassed all expectation.”
“Why not try to set our own records?”
Speaking on the eight-point lead in la Liga, Piqué said he used his former mister as his guiding light.
“It’s an important distance but it’s not definitive at all. I always use the example from (Josep) Guardiola’s first year: We had a 12-point advantage and thought we had done it. Eventually we suffered and had to go to the Bernabéu and beat (Real Madrid) because if not, they would have been within a point of us. Madrid has a better team now than they did. They are very dangerous. But true, we have the luxury of allowing ourselves a bit of tranquility, not relaxation. We have to keep this rhythm. We have 31 of 33 (points) and we have equaled a historic league record. Why not try to set our own record?”
“There is no Plan B”
Piqué, whose talents put him at center forward in his younger years, has several times charged forward in matches to put pressure on the opponent’s net. A rather unorthodox approach, many viewed this as Barcelona’s Plan B along with several other options. The defender, however, claims this is but a variation of Plan A.
“I believe there is no Plan B. We have a Plan A in that we have great players and with that we have plenty of variants. Putting me to work as a center forward is a slightly desperate variant but it is a variant within Plan A. The Barça philosophy is that you have a squad of 22 or 23 players to face the season. I would not call it a Plan A, Plan B or Plan C but rather an original plan that can have many variants.”
“The luck of the cantera”
For Piqué, the success of Barcelona comes not from the money and the managers, but from the academy itself. Day in and day out he sees empirical evidence of La Masia’s success, built upon solid values and one fluid attacking philosophy.
“We have had the luck of drawing together all of the people from the cantera. Barça will always have a tough time competing with Madrid. In the last few years, what has Madrid spent? At Barça there are players who make up the backbone of the team who have turned out to be free. If it had not been like that, we would not be competing for as many titles. On an economic level, we can not compete with Madrid based on what they generate.”
“There was a moment where we could not even compete for the UEFA Cup. Ronaldinho made dramatic changes, but had Xavi, Iniesta, Leo, Puyol not come out for free, it would have been impossible.”
“I would rather be president”
Piqué spoke with great respect for Tito and Pep and their roles as managers. If Piqué ever gets things his way in the future however, one could expect him to be pulling strings a little further away from the pitch.
“Before being a coach, I would rather be president of the club. I like to observe from a greater distance. I have always preferred business and negotiations and I am very aware of what happens at this club.”
“They tell me (a child) will change my life”
Shakira’s boyfriend said he also had plenty of reasons to appreciate life, given the recent newly-born children of Iniesta and Messi.
“I am very excited. They say it will change my life but I live calmly. When it is born, I know the tranquility will end. Shakira is doing well, with two or three months to go. Now we have the news of Thiago (Messi) and it looks like here in the Barça camp we are very productive and fertile and that makes me happy.
And when asked if he has had any practice changing diapers, “No, not yet. The time will come.”