squad | 2015-12-15
Piqué: 'They talked more about my no-goal at the Bernabéu than the 0-4 win, everything except football'
The Barcelona center back spoke to El País about his year, the Club World Cup and what he was planning to if he had scored at the Bernabéu.
Why did your opponents score so many goals at the start of the season?
We weren’t in form yet and we had to recover our coordination. There were individual errors, but a radical change from one season to another, having conceded three goals in more games, was a collective issue. The process was difficult, but now the adjustments work.
Do you feel superior to your opponents?
It’s difficult to have that feeling on the pitch because you try to do your work well to help the team. But at times I do feel like we dominate a game and those are the days I enjoy.
Are you back to being at the pinnacle of world football?
We might be. Last season we won the treble again and we have had a great decade. You remember Sacchi’s Milan at the end of the ‘80s and the start of the ‘90s and maybe after a while people will think of us that way. But we have to keep our feet on the ground, because look where Milan are now. Although seeing the success model and the talent of the team, we can extend this period.
Short passes, long passes, counterattacks, long possessions… Does the variety of registers you have with Luis Enrique help you?
Yes, he has brought in his ideas and we also have new players. And for defenders it’s better now because we don’t feel uncomfortable if we don’t have the ball. Before, we had it for such a long time that when we didn’t it was hard. We’re more solvent now.
It seemed difficult that a coach could introduce changes and convince a dressing room that had basically memorized how they played.
Being a Barça coach has its demands. And Luis Enrique showed that he was one since the first moment. But as players we don’t demand anything. What happens is that Cruyff’s philosophy, extended by Rijkaard and Pep has given us so much success that it’s proven to be the working model at Barça. That’s beyond questioning.
You won at the Bernabéu 4-0. Did it make you mad that the goal you didn’t score was talked about more than the game itself?
I’m used to it. It’s the power of distraction and the continuous dramatic effects they focus on, talking about everything except for football.
What would you have done if you had scored that goal?
I would have celebrated it. There was nothing prepared, like some have said. I’m a culé and opportunities like this one, having one more player on the pitch and the score being 0-4 will be few if at all. That’s why I wanted to score. But I also wanted to score against Roma in the next game! That’s my way of playing. When the game is settled I like to join the attack.
You haven’t lost your attacking soul with the years?
Attacking is fun. There are games in which I feel very good and in which I set myself other goals. But experience has taught me when and how.
Playing out of the back, for example, you use the change of orientation more often.
Really? I don’t know, I’ve always tried it. But it depends on where the opponent presses us. My mission is to find the pass and give it to the free player. And if there are two who are open, then it’s logic that I’ll give it to the one who is closer the rival’s goal.
But do you have time to see the whole field when you have the ball at your feet?
We’re playing very similar for years. The fullbacks attack, the wingers go inside, the attacking midfielders open up for the pass… More or less, looking at the ball, you know where everyone is. But the key, what they teach you at Barça, is to play without looking at the ball. That way you control the game and you win a second in the play.
Is the center back who switches the orientation of the play, a player who was ‘born’ at Ajax and maintained at Barça, a dying breed?
I hope not. It’s a player who has to evolve because football evolves. The center back who only defends is antiquated because more often than not we have to be the first ones who attack, to generate the play and start the chances. It’s about driving the ball until someone opens up for the pass. With this you provoke and divide. I don’t dribble, because that’s not my specialty and it would generate an unnecessary risk for the team. Although with time I drive the ball less because the opponents know me already.
People also know you in stadiums around Spain, where you’re whistled persistently. What do you feel in those moments?
It’s a situation I have to live with. I don’t think too much about it. People give it so much hype because it’s me and that provokes a kind of morbid attraction and it’s become a fashion. But sometimes I don’t even realize it. A while ago, with the national team, I asked Bartra at half time: ‘They didn’t whistle at me today, right?’ He started laughing because I had been whistled a lot. But I’m so focused on what happens on the pitch that I don’t even notice it at times.
Do the whistles hurt you?
No. On one hand, 100 people whistle at you and it seems as if the whole world does. On the other hand, I know that they’re not right. They give arguments that aren’t real. ‘Piqué doesn’t feel Spanish,’ they say. But when did I say that? ‘Piqué went over the line with the Kevin Roldan joke,’ they claim. But that’s a Barça-Madrid thing and has nothing to do with the national team. No argument seems plausible to me.
What happened with Arbeloa or the emoticons tweet when Madrid fielded an ineligible player in the Cup don’t help smooth things over. Do you feel like you’re defiant?
With the emoticons I was watching Leo Harlem on TV and I was laughing a lot (winks, laughs). No, seriously, I think we shouldn’t blow things out of proportion so much.
Could it be because people envy you for having everything?
I don’t have everything. And even if I did, why would that make people mad? In the United States, the more someone has the more people idolize him. I don’t know, I’m super privileged and very happy both in my personal life and in my sporting life, but would that make people mad?
What are you missing in order to have everything?
I want to win more. I’m 28 years old and I love winning. Two or three years ago I was playing because I had to. But now I love football more and more every time. When I was younger I thought I’d quit when I was 30, but now I want to play until I’m 35. And I know that ending my career at Barça is going to be very difficult, age shows and the physical aspects let you down. Even though now I have incorporated some patterns that make me enjoy more and be better. Like going to the dressing room one hour before, when I used to be very rushed, eating well, sleeping better… Shaki and the family gave me this. I know that if I had continued with the habits I had four or five years ago I wouldn’t be at Barça today. But when you’re young you don’t prioritize the important things.
Who gets talked about more at home: mom or dad?
Both. But the boys like football. And I love that. Even though Shaki would prefer if they liked music more… The thing is that it’s hard to do that because Milan is obsessed with football. He knows results, who scored, he wants me to bring him shirts from teams and he wears them…
What does the Club World Cup mean for Barça?
It means a lot, it really does. Until 2009 we hadn’t won it at all. And if we win, we would wear the shield here (points to his chest) during a year as the best team in the world.
In that Club World Cup in 2009 Tito Vilanova said that without you ‘the whole invention would fall apart’. Do you feel that important?
Barça is such a great club that no one is irreplaceable. And we have Messi, you know? In the end the club moves on. When Leo leaves we’ll have two miserable years, but Puyi, Xavi and Víctor were irreplaceable and the team moved on, we’re leaders, we won another treble… So well, yes, I feel important, but if I’m not here another one will come. We try to be important while we play for Barça, but history is written by everyone and people will keep writing it when we’re gone.
What do you think about Guangzhou?
The names in the team speak for themselves. From the coach, the experienced Scolari, who won a World Cup, a Copa Libertadores and a Confederations Cup, a player with a great experience like Paulinho, entertaining and fun players like Robinho… It’s a different game than the ones we’re used to having and we really want to do it well and win.