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Piqué: “Returning to Barça was the most important step of my career”

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Piqué: “Returning to Barça was the most important step of my career”

In the second part of the Gerard Piqué interview, the defender talks about Pep Guardiola, his time in Manchester and why he likes Borussia Dortmund

After discussing his performances, motivations and world class defenders, the Barcelona centre-back continues his exclusive interview with German Sports Magazine Kicker, speaking about Pep Guardiola, his time in Manchester and why he likes Borussia Dortmund. This is the second part of the translated interview.

Question (Q): Last season, you praised Marc-André ter Stegen several times. What’s his strength?

Answer (A): He makes the team feel secure. He has a calming presence; handles the ball brilliantly well with his feet. I think he will be at Barça for many years.

Q: As the head of the defense, was it psychologically difficult for you to have a young goalkeeper behind you who doesn’t play for weeks because of the rotation?

A: Not at all. Age doesn’t matter if somebody is a good player.

Q: Did you ever think that Ivan Rakitic would adjust that quickly to Barça?

A: He is a professional with a high football IQ. This is helping him to adjust very quickly to things the coach demands of him – as a playmaker or ball distributor. He is big, physically strong, has a good technique. He’s a very complete player.

Q: The word is that you have a bet with your teammates on who Barcelona will face next in the Champions League. Is this true?

A: Most of the time we make a bet during the summer on which teams are going to survive the group stage, just for fun, €20 at most. Then we all watch the draw in the locker room while sitting in front of the TV.

Q: Any particular teams you’d rather not face, or it doesn’t matter since you are the title holders?

A: You have to pay attention to everybody. I know what I’m talking about, because with Manchester United, we didn’t survive the group stage two years before our triumph in 2008. But we trust in our strengths.

Q: Germany, the current World Champion, has in Wolfsburg and Mönchengladbach two teams with little or no experience at all.

A: I’m really pleased that a traditional club like Gladbach is taking part. Having said that, I personally like Borussia Dortmund a lot.

Q: Why?

A: Because of their fans and their great stadium. I would love to play there once.

Q: There is a discussion in Germany: Traditional teams are on one side and new clubs, backed by companies, on the other. How do you see that?

A: Personally, I prefer traditional clubs. But don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against these new clubs. They earned their spot in sporting terms in a proper way. I’ll compete against them with as much respect as I’ll do against a legendary club.

Q: As a youngster, you joined one legendary club: Manchester United. After your return in 2008 [to Barcelona] you said it has been “the most beautiful moment in my career, more beautiful than winning the Champions League with United.” That says everything about your relationship with Barça, right?

A: Yes, the return was the most important step of my career. When I left Barça, I thought I wouldn’t be able to come back.

Q: What did you learn in Manchester?

A: It was brilliant in the locker room from the beginning, even if I would’ve liked to have played more. But they had an awesome team with Rooney, van Nistelrooy, Cristiano Ronaldo. In defense, there was hardly a way around Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.

Q: Did you have some role models as a young player?

A: Ronald Koeman and Fernando Hierro. I always thought about what I would do if I were in their situation. Of course at Barça I looked closely at Carles Puyol and Rafa Marquez.

Q: When you were 12, then Barça-coach Louis van Gaal knocked you down and shook you up with the words: “With this clumsiness, you’re never going to be a defender at Barça.” A defining experience?

A: He was very impressive. A very strict coach, rough too. He goes down with his ideals if needed. But the success proves he’s right.

Q: What did Pep Guardiola give to you?

A: I never thought that I would play right away when I came from Manchester. But he trusted me. Guardiola is the best coach there is. He analyzes football like nobody else, he’s always focused to make his team better.

Q: In the end it seemed like both sides [Barcelona and Bayern] wore each other down. Was the win against him in last year’s Champions League semifinal some kind of revenge?

A: Not a bit. In the last rounds, you’re always going to meet old acquaintances, that duel was bound to happen someday.

Q: You’ve founded a gaming company. Your new passion?

A: I always liked to play with or against friends. Simulation games, manager games, these kinds of stuff. So I launched a company. It’s going pretty well, I really take care of it, and in “Golden Manager” we established our own game.

Q: Is this firm revealing the new businessman, after your career is over – or are we maybe going to see you as a coach one day?

A: I haven’t given that a thought yet. At the moment, I’m only some kind of coach in my manager game. Who knows if this works out in real life?

Q: A thing that didn’t work out: You becoming the team’s fourth captain. Disappointed?

A: The team voted for Javier Mascherano. That’s the decision of the players and I respect that.

Q: Authentic. Do you feel that way when you taunt Real Madrid at title celebrations?

A: Most of the time there’s too much thinking about what can evolve out of a statement. It’s important that you feel alright with what you are saying, not with what develops from that. You can’t control that anyway.

Q: You’re considered as the figurehead of Barcelonismo. How important is it for you that Barça is in front of Real Madrid? Or is it mainly about titles?

A: The rivalry is permanent, but in sporting terms, it’s there for many years and it’s huge. I’ve always looked at myself as a Culé, as one of Barça. I want to win titles for Barça and myself. That’s it.

Q: But you’re ending your career in Colombia – is that maybe what your partner Shakira wants?

A: (Laughs.) No, she doesn’t pressure me. I’m allowed to end my career at Barça.

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