squad | 2015-05-27
Piqué interviewed by Marca: If we manage to win many titles with this team, we can compare them with Pep's Barça
Before the two finals that finish off the season, Gerard Piqué spoke to Marca about the season and his life.
Q: How do you feel when someone like Xavi tells you he’s leaving?
A: He’s a person who I’ve shared seven seasons with. You learn a lot from him because he’s been in this house for a long time and he knows what the club needs in every moment. On a football level he has been a reference point for Spain and the world. He understands football in a way that was different to how the world saw it before him, he created a school. In the dressing room his absence will be felt. He was very important.
With Puyol and Xavi leaving is this the time for you to step up and be captain?
That’s for the squad to vote on. Even though I’m not captain I try to speak from experience on different things. Obviously, with Xavi leaving there will be a spot that someone needs to fill. I don’t know if it will be right now, but in the future I would like to be one of the captains.
Do you feel like a leader in the dressing room?
This dressing room needs very few words. We like talking on the pitch more. There’s so much talent that there are only a few things we need to say to each other. I think that Messi is a leader, but he is a leader playing football, which is where he makes the difference.
What about setting the behavior guidelines, like Puyol did?
Puyi was an example in that, but I don’t think I’m like him. I am Piqué. I have other qualities and other flaws. With my experience I feel very comfortable in this role. Even though there are others ahead of me who have more experience, I try to contribute.
With all these talk about a treble it seems like the league title went unnoticed and that the Cup is an obligation. Do you get that feeling?
For us, it didn’t go unnoticed. Maybe for some newspapers who had Madrid’s basketball Euroleague win on their front page it did, but not for us. We’re very proud of having won the championship. The Cup is next, and it seems like it’s a smaller title, but we care about it as much as we do about the Champions League. It’s one more trophy for the club’s museum and here, at Barça, we only know how to win.
What changed after Anoeta?
I could say that we had a meeting, that we all swore that we’d turn things around, but it wasn’t like that. The team, as a group, depends on the confidence that results give it. Until January the team was winning, but still having some slip ups. After that, we started having great results, getting more confidence and understanding what the coach was asking from us more and more.
Then Atlético came, a team that we couldn’t beat in any game last season, and we won. That gave us confidence. There comes a point when you realize that you're storming forward, that you can beat anyone and this is what has ended up winning us the league and putting us in two finals. Now we mustn’t stop; we have to win the two matches that are left and make it a perfect season.
Did you start understanding what the coach wanted better or did the coach start knowing you and understanding you better?
The coach arrives to a dressing room that is filled with stars, filled with people who have won a lot of titles.
He has an idea, which is to play with Leo up front and Luis Suárez on the wing, with the forwards more central. With the passing of the season we realized that there was no space, that we were crowded and the decision for Leo to go to the wing was made.
It was a bit of everything really, the players got more confident as the season went on, the team got more solid, and defensively we were closer together, which helped Bravo win the Zamora trophy… It’s a lot of things that came together and amounted to this result.
Is the relationship between Leo Messi and Luis Enrique that complicated?
It’s like everything. It’s part of the management of a team that is as big as Barcelona, which has stars and every one of those is different. I can tell you from experience that this is the best dressing room I’ve been in. There are players that have won World Cups, Euro Cups, Champions Leagues, everything. There’s no one who raises their voice higher than the others, there’s no one who has a huge ego, and everything is simple and good.
It’s true that there are some clashes at times, like there are in every dressing room in the world, but that’s a part of the life of a football player. There are players here who have played with each other for eight or 10 years. Who doesn’t have fights in a 10-year relationship? It happens and then you move on, at the end of a couple of days it’s fixed. The thing is that this is Barça and Leo is the best player in the world and everything gets blown out of proportion.
Anoeta marked the end of the rotations?
No. I think the coach has kept on making rotations. All the players have participated. In a position like centre back, in which usually the same guys play all the time, Bartra has played a lot, Mathieu too, he even scored some goals. In midfield, the same story. I have the feeling that the team was well rotated and that we all have participated.
The change in your performance has been parallel to that of the team. What happened?
The same thing that happened with the team. When you see that the coach relies on you, that the team is playing well, that you’re winning games, that on a defensive level you’re conceding few goals… I am feeling like I am back to where I wanted to be at the start of the season and I feel very comfortable when I play.
There’s plenty of talk about the attacking trident, but this has been the season in which the team has conceded less goals.
When we win the talk is about the forwards, when we lose it’s about the defenders, the goalkeeper and the coach. This happens at the big clubs and it’s normal. You have three forwards up top who are the three best players in the world right now from an attacking point of view, who understand each other perfectly and get along wonderfully.
You’re talking about Messi, about a Neymar who is the most unbalancing player in the world right now and who scores a lot, and about a Luis Suárez who can play with his back to the goal, who can withstand pressure, who presses, who passes the ball into space, who has a good aerial game and who scores a lot. It’s hard to keep them quiet.
No one knew ter Stegen before he came here.
I think that we have a goalkeeper for the present and for the future. I remember a game in the Copa del Rey against Villarreal, when they were pressing us high and he played the ball, with his left foot, to the interior, without any problem, a lobbed pass. I’m telling you that a lot of players in La Liga, even in my own team, don’t have the character or the quality to play that pass in that moment. He does it without any problems and he’s a goalkeeper. His character makes him special.
In the defensive system what matters more: the goalkeeper, the defense or the high press?
It’s everything. You can have the best four defenders in the world, if the rest of the team doesn’t press high, the forwards, midfielders and goalkeeper don’t help you... They always tell me that Madrid’s defense is better than ours because of their names, because they have Pepe, Sergio Ramos… Well, there hasn’t been a year, in the seven I’ve been here, in which Madrid have conceded fewer goals than Barça.
Yes, because when the high press fails…
Then they’re coming at you from everywhere. And that happens to every team in the world. When you aren’t organized, when you don’t know how to press, that’s when problems come. If we weren’t well organized it would have been very difficult that Bayern didn’t have a shot on target in the whole game at the Camp Nou, and we managed that. It’s not just one player, it’s the whole team.
Speaking of Bayern, was this like a payback to Guardiola?
No. Not for me and it didn’t feel that way for the team either. It was a Champions League semifinal that could get us to a Champions League final! That was enough motivation for the win. Nothing else. His return to this house with the philosophy he has exported to Munich was emotional, yes. But there was no desire for revenge. Everything Pep left us with was good.
Is Luis Enrique’s Barça better than Guardiola’s Barça? Does it have more weapons?
We’ll see. In the end, teams are great because of what they win. You can play incredibly well and have millions of weapons, but if your museum doesn’t have titles it won’t matter. If we manage to win many titles with this team, not as many as we won with Pep, we can compare the two. I think that right now we have more options.
We know how to play on the counter, which was something we didn’t use as much with Pep. Maybe we don’t have the control we did then, but that didn’t guarantee you wins, because this year we’ve won more games than ever. The teams are similar; there are details that are different, due to the change of coach and the fact that the players are more experienced now. It’s a more mature team that knows how to get out of complicated situations. Experience allows you to survive difficult moments of a game.
What has changed about the set piece strategy?
It’s a bit of everything. Unzué has helped. He always tries to come up with different ways in which we can generate chances from them. The attitude of the players also counts, also some luck. We try not to concede unnecessary corners or lateral free kicks, because we know that we’re not the best at defending them, that we’re weak. We haven’t worked on them a lot, only at times, before special games.
Are you afraid that playing the Copa del Rey final at the Camp Nou will make it less tense?
I don’t think it will. The years have shown me that the Cup is a special competition, especially the final. You experience a unique environment. I don’t think it will be a normal game for Barça’s fans. There won’t be the same socís that come to every home game; the tickets could have been bought by anyone. We won’t have to motivate the fans; they know how difficult it is to get there, how much we worked for it. And they’ll be rooting for us, surely.
What is your opinion on the possible controversial booing of the Spanish national anthem in the Cup final?
Someone said that if there was any booing, the final should be suspended, but it’s something you can’t control. At the end of the day, it’s people expressing their angst. I’d also look at it from the other point of view: why are they booing? They don’t boo without justification. It’s true that booing is perhaps not the correct thing to do, but really you’re just booing an anthem. Booing the national anthem is not the best decision in the world to take, but I'm not one of the people in the stands. I’m on the pitch playing football.
Do you, like Bartomeu, feel like outside elements are trying to destabilize Barça when you’re playing well?
It’s nothing new. In these last years we’ve been surrounded with stuff that was unrelated to football, and everyone has an opinion on that, but as players we need to focus on our job. There are other people, like the president, who can deal with things that don’t concern the players.
Would you be affected if there was a story in the press about Madrid wanting you?
Dealing with rumors is part of everyday life. In November there were four teams that were allegedly after me, I can show you the front pages. Journalism today is what it is. It’s true that there are all kinds of journalists, but we have to look at the tendency. The tendency is towards what sells more and that is proved if you visit websites that have juicy headlines so that the readers access the article. But that happens to Barça and to Madrid in equal measure.
Are you going to continue at Barça?
I’ll retire at Barça. I don’t know when - the older I’ll be, the better. I’m sure about that; I can’t see myself wearing any other shirt. If I see that next year I’m not up to scratch, I’ll hang my boots up at 29 years of age. I don’t associate this sport with anything except Barcelona.
I’ve played for Zaragoza, for United, I lived the Premier League experience. In Spain, outside of Barça, where would I go? I don’t see myself at any other club. I don’t know if I’ll retire in one or two years, I hope I will in seven or eight. No Qatar, no United States. When I’m done here I’ll retire.
Is it easy being Gerard Piqué?
I’d be an idiot if I said it wasn’t easy. Of course it is! I have a lot of privileges and everything is in my hands. There are lots of things you have to be careful about because of who you are, but I’m a football player with no financial concerns and a lovely family... I have nothing to complain about; I’m truly privileged. It’s just that you have to be careful with what you do because of the repercussions. Every little thing gets amplified, you need to be cautious.
Is that just the way things are or is it because of jealousy?
It’s the way things are. It’s what sells. It sells more to say that Gerard Piqué had a fight with traffic cops or that I was looking at my phone on the bench, than saying that a player from a team other than Barça or Madrid played a great game. That’s a shame, because everyone is focused on these two teams and their players, which is what sells most.
Do you regret having done anything?
No. I never regret anything that I have done. Everything that you do in a given moment is because you believe it’s the right thing to do. Then you realize that maybe you were wrong, but that helps you to learn. Life is a constant learning process. No one is perfect and until the day we die we’re all learning. Of course I have done things wrong, I’ve done a lot of things wrong, as everybody has, but I think that I have also done things well. I feel proud of who I am and what I represent, even though not everybody likes me. But that’s not something I’m trying to achieve. The whole world can’t like you; somebody that likeable is hiding something.
The ‘Nobita’ chant was your idea?
No, but I get attributed with everything. I don’t even know how that started. I was already in my own world on the plane, I was very happy.
You celebrated a lot.
You have to enjoy it! It’s a league! In the end we lose sight of what’s really important. Moments are important, being happy in every instant. We can’t think about the Cup final and the Champions League final in that moment. We have to enjoy the league title. There have been 38 rounds, a whole year, with bad moments and a lot of work. We can’t say: “We’re going to be careful.” No, we’re going to enjoy this. We’ll see about the rest later. I enjoyed it, but you know that everything that I do gets amplified.
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