He spoke hot after 2-8. He asked, with a broken voice, profound changes in the club, and made himself available to the entity. He went on vacation and came back. Two and a half months later Gerard Piqué, one of the four captains of FC Barcelona, grants his first interview. His vow of silence could presage a smooth speech. It is not. Start the conversation. “Shoot,” says Piqué.
How does it feel Why so silence?
I’m fine. The end of last year was a drama and we need some time to digest it. On vacation I did a reset. It’s about starting over.
How about Koeman?
Very good sensations. The coach uses a very direct message that the dressing room has liked, and the dose of work has increased. We have started the season well, the defeat of Getafe was an unexpected blow. Let’s see what happens in the classic.
Have you rewound? Do you recognize yourself in that speech after the defeat in Lisbon?
When something like this happens, something that will be marked forever in the history of the club, the leaders have to make decisions. Look at yourself and see what needs to change, because it is clear that the path we were going was not the right one. You can lose but never like that. What I said I hold firmly today.
Did you really think about leaving the club?
If the leaders or the coach who had to come did not count on me, I had no problem. Barça is above all. It’s what came out of me. And I keep thinking about it.
“My relationship with the president may be cordial but there are things that remain”
Those changes that you claimed should affect all areas, have they come as you imagined them?
There were many acquired vices that required profound changes. It is true that some have been done and that perhaps not all of them have to be carried out at once, but it must be noted that things are done differently.
When do you think everything started to go wrong?
We touched the sky with the triplet of 2015 and from then on the club has been falling instead of growing and that trend is unappealable. We hit bottom with 2-8 and we all had to reset to see what was best for the club. From humility, rowing and being clear that nobody is essential.
Was changing a coach mid-season (Valverde) a mistake?
Talking “to the Monday newspaper” as the Argentines say is very easy. We will never know what would have happened, but to me, after winning two leagues and being leaders, firing the coach in the middle of the season, as a project, does not seem coherent to me. I did not see it logical.
Well, the captains were involved in that decision …
That is the crux of the matter. We are summoned to a meeting and a message is transmitted to us, and it seems that we must approve or disapprove, when we said: “Gentlemen, that is a decision that you must make.”
Don’t footballers have too much power to influence?
It says a lot, yes. But when a club works better and everything is healthier for everyone, it is when the hierarchies are well marked. The president must be the first and then the coach must rule over the players. When this hierarchy is broken, things don’t work. If the players at some point have had power, it is because other people have not wanted to exercise it.
“Messi? As president I would have acted differently. I asked Leo to hold on. The Camp Nou must bear his name “
What happened then exactly?
More than getting us involved, what they did was let us know before it happened. We were never participants in that decision. Yes or no? That decision is for you.
What relationship do you have today with President Bartomeu?
I don’t want to get along with anyone but there have been times …
Can you give an example?
(Long silence). The theme of social networks. As a Barça player, I see that my club has spent money, money that they are now asking us to criticize, not only external people with a historical relationship with the club, but also active players, and that is a outrageous … I asked him for an explanation and what he told me was “Gerard, I didn’t know. And I believed it.
Then you see that, in future actions, the person in charge of hiring those services is still working at the club.
Exact. And that hurts a lot. I say it here because I personally told the president before. And what do you want me to say? It is painful? Yes. Can I do something else? Well, no. My relationship with the president may be cordial but there are things that remain.
That injury hasn’t stopped you from renewing your contract recently … Is that incongruous?
No. It is very simple. The club tells me, me and other players, that due to the pandemic the club will suffer a lot financially and in that situation Barça is above anyone. Barça has given me everything, so I put myself at their disposal. They tell me that all the money I can give up this year will be collected in the future. We do numbers and I propose an amount.
Doesn’t he mortgage that to the next directive?
I think we are helping the club. The backpack may be bigger in the future but for there to be a future we must act like this.
On the one hand he renews and on the other he signs a burofax with the staff, refusing to sit at the negotiating table …
They are different things. In a personal capacity, each player is free to accept the club’s proposal voluntarily. Another thing is that they force you unilaterally and that they do it with the ways they have done it. There, the truth is, I totally disagree.
They did it when many players were with their national teams, putting us in the same bag with all the workers.
And the burofax arrives …
As captain I defend the interests of the team and make the decision to sign it. And here we are a united wardrobe. Then they say that the wardrobe has been broken and I don’t know what else.
Have there been no tensions? It happens in any group when it comes to lowering wages …
The four captains are very close and we have signed the two burofax. We have had several meetings as a team and we have explained it and we all go to one.
And in the field, how is it going?
We have very young people, other more veterans, but we connect very well. There is a good locker room.
There is a vote of no confidence in progress … were you expecting it?
My conclusion is that the club is more alive than ever. Achieving 20,000 signatures with the current situation seems outrageous to me. That there are so many people who rebel when you cannot demonstrate due to the pandemic shows that the club is not asleep.
When would it be better to vote?
I don’t get in there. May it be now or in March. What deserves vindication is mobilization, it shows that we belong to something that is very much alive.
Would you go to vote in a referendum?
I would exercise my right to vote as a partner.
You won’t tell me the meaning of your vote …
(Laughs) The vote is confidential.
Let’s go to the lawn. Are there reasons for the illusion?
You have to start from humility. Recognize that there are better teams in Europe right now. We have new faces that are giving us vitality and legs to push better. It is seen, I perceive it, we are playing something else.
Wage reduction due to coronavirus
“The club’s ways of negotiating salaries have been very bad, we totally disagree”
You play like you train, says Koeman. Did they train so little?
You have to do self-criticism. When you lose against Bayern like that it is because you have neglected the routine. This does not happen overnight.
Did you ever imagine Messi with another shirt? Some message would you send …
I didn’t have much contact with him those days because I thought it was a very personal decision. I remember one: “Leo, it’s a year, and then new people come …”.
How did you experience the whole thing?
Leo had more than earned a decision and if he considered that he should go … I as president would have acted differently.
In what sense?
A player who for 16 years has given you so much… You are obliged to come to an agreement with him. It cannot be so obvious that the two parties are so far apart.
Was sending a burofax the way?
I ask myself: How can it be that the best player in history, who we have had the holy luck to enjoy, gets up one day and sends a burofax because he feels that they are not listening to him? Everything is too shocking. What’s going on? Leo deserves everything. The new stadium should have your name and then that of the sponsor. We must preserve our figures, not discredit them. It makes me nervous.
Does that happen?
I am surprised that people like Pep, Puyi, Xavi or Valdés are not in the club. Something is not being done right. You always have to keep these people, they are part of the club’s history, they have made it great. They should add up, be here.
Messi is still here. How do you see him on a day-to-day basis?
I see him very well. He is very involved, excited. Leo is the reflection of the wardrobe, the example to follow. If he is okay, it gives peace of mind.
This Saturday the classic is played. What feelings do you have?
We come from where we come from but I am optimistic. Moderate optimist.