“I have always wished the worst for Madrid, and I won’t change!” -Gerard Piqué Bernabéu
Often known for being outspoken, and vocal about sensitive issues, Gerard has his fair share of critics and doubters. From Kevin Roldan to his vocal stand in the Catalan Referendum, Piqué has always spoken what has been on his mind. His ambition of being the President of FC Barcelona has earned him the nickname El Presidente among fans. Piqué was born and brought up in a culer family. His grandfather Amador Bernabeu was the Vice President of FC Barcelona. Being brought up in a Catalan family, Gerard was and always has been crystal clear about his political views which has caused him serious backlashes. Piqué joined La Masia in ambition to be a player higher up the pitch. However, his fantastic reading of the game, combined with Sir Alex Ferguson’s interpretation of the game made him become a Center Back. Having his fair share of critics among rival fans,Piqué is caned even among Barcelona fans, where he is often slated for his lack of concentration and silly looking mistakes. His vocal nature and passionate hate towards Madrid made sure that he would never be recognised by fans of other teams. But in truth, is the most iconic CB of this generation who brought a dead role back to life and made it his own.
Piqué was re-signed a FC Barcelona by Pep Guardiola himself. He came in, went straight into the starting lineup and became one of the most important system players in the team. According to Beckenbauer, Fergie used him as a more conventional CB, but signing for barcelona made him the best Centre Back in the world. Coming from someone like Beckenbauer, who was rated for his abilities on the ball very much like Piqué, those were words of assurance. Piqué in all honesty is one of the most misunderstood players of this generation. Pep saw Piqué as an indispensable player of the system.Tactically, Piqué’s role was as important as it could get. He played at the right side of the defense or even as a libero where he was he link between Valdes and Busquets. His passing range, and quick reading of the game made it easier for Barça to keep possession, attack when apt, but most importantly provide passing options for recycling possession when no attacking outlet would present itself. Piqué being as tall as 1.94 m, looks very uncomfortable when on the ball, but in reality is very comfortable with both his feet and is capable of breaking a line by his actions be it a threaded pass, or a simple stroll through defense to midfield.
As Xavi recently said, Barça is the ultimate test for every player. It is the most demanding club in the world. Since his arrival, he was always expected to maintain a high line of defense which leaves spaces behind the last line leaving attackers strolling on their own with the keeper. The key to avoid this is be positionally smart and recycle the ball before it reaches the opposition attackers get hold of it. Piqué excels in reading the game. He gets the ball in areas of high risk and plays it comfortably as if it were nothing. It is a lot easier to tackle a player who already has the ball, than stopping the ball from reaching the player itself. According to Paolo Maldini, tackling in itself is a result of a mistake. Defending in a general perspective is usually rated upon last ditch tackles or blocks, but in reality defending is all about reading the game. They say Cruijff has a relevant quote for every footballing situation, turns out, he has one for this conundrum. Cruijff says, if he is asked to defend a metre of space, he is the best defender, but to defend an entire garden, he would be the worst. This is the most important thing to observe when rating defenders. The amount of space they defend.To say a defender is better than the other when one plays in a deep block, rigid system while the other plays with a half of football field behind him is not only wrong but also naive.
Recently, Piqué’s performances have been subpar for his high standards, and there is a majority among culers that believe Umtiti is far more important to Barça right now and that Piqué needs the bench treatment. To an extent, Piqué needs to be given the treatment he gt from Lucho for a few games, but to say Umtiti is more important is an abomination. This is in no way a disrespect to our very own Umtiti, but it is very visible that Umtiti is not close to Piqué in terms of buildup and reading the game. Umtiti’s passes are most of times predictable, which he knows hence turns and passes sideways to let Piqué do his job. Building from the back is a very important part of Barcelona CB’s game. Finding and creating space is a difficult skill which Piqué has mastered. It is a learning curve for Umtiti, and there can be no better teacher to him than Piqué. There have been several occasions where Umtiti misinterprets the flow of the game and rushes his moves. This is not to berate Samuel but this is just an acknowledgement of Piqué’s brilliance. Piqué surely gets complacent from time to time, but anybody in Geri’s shoes would to be fair to him. However, there is no defender close to a fully concentrated Piqué which was obvious from his performances at the Bernabeu and RCDE. Piqué is not always the most notable player on the pitch when he is at his best, but when he makes mistakes, it is painfully obvious. That is the life of defenders in such systems. They don’t tackle as frequently, they intercept, they retrieve, they build play. Something much more demanding than a conventional CBs job.
Piqué will probably end his career as the most successful defender ever, being an integral part of almost every trophy that he has won. He played every minute of the 2012 Euro, and started CB in 2010 WC over Ramos(who played RB) and kept the most clean sheets. To say that player has been ordinary in itself is wrong. He was rated by Beckenbauer as the best defender back in 2010, even when Puyol played for Barça. Piqué has been this generation’s best ball playing center back and it has been acknowledged by several of the greats. It is uanfair to him hen fans of the club he has given so much to go on to say he has been average. He was a part of the spine of the greatest team to play football ever. This does not come easy, and to not rate him for the player he is despite his vocal nature is exactly what drives him. He is a big game player, he is a player the entire squad looks up to. Piqué is the beloved son of Barcelona, he is and will be a legend for the club. He will be remembered as an iconic player, who redefined the role of the center back, but very much like Valdes his genius will be masked by mistakes that came with the demands of the system. Umtiti has a long way to go before he reaches Piqué’s level in terms of importance and contribution to the system, and there is nobody better than Geri himself to make sure of it.