No player who has not taken care of himself could endure 18 seasons at the highest level
“Bring me the best center back in the world and I’ll make him a substitute,” Piqué told Laporta.
The discussion opens. Which side are you on, to retire Piqué or to pay attention to him and believe that next season he will show his quality again?
And in this case, what should be your role within the team? Gerard’s time has come, but what exactly? What happened to other legends like Puyol, Xavi or Iniesta, in his last season as a Barça player?
Before entering the discussion, perhaps it would be good to explain that whatever their decision is – yours -, Gerard Piqué’s is already taken and, also, assumed by the club: he stays. Contractually, he has two more years signed and physically and emotionally, he feels like continuing.
However, Xavi Hernández spoke clearly to him. For the first time in 18 years as a professional he had to hear, from the mouth of his coach, the fateful “So far we have come”. Hard, very hard for a champion like him, someone who has lifted nine Leagues, seven Cups, one League Cup, seven Super Cups, four Champions Leagues, three European Super Cups and three Club World Cups, as well as one World Cup and one European Championship, with Spain. 36 titles and 756 official matches as a professional. Legend.
To Hammered the challenges go to him and seen the seen, the more complicated, the better. Pique continues, but…
The president of FC Barcelona, Joan Laportaalso talked to him. She scolded him and gave him affection. She spares the noise and, at the same time, the footballer and the person are valued. Piqué has promised to avoid the first and promote the second. We will see. The future is uncertain because nobody knows today what is going to happen tomorrow with the famous economic levers that the assembly authorized to execute in last Thursday’s meeting.
If the Board activates them and eliminates the negative funds, Barça will be able to sign on equal terms with respect to its competitors. Can you imagine, for example, Jules Koundé, the excellent 23-year-old French central defender for Sevilla, dressed as a Barça player?
A new scenario if, in addition, as it seems, the Danish from Chelsea, Andreas Christensen, 26, is also signed. But what would happen if Barça does not have enough to get to zero economically? Well, sportingly, another very different scenario.
If we place the ball at the center of the discussion, we will find a relevant reason that helps to understand Piqué’s decision about his continuity in the team: there is no objective data to visualize its withdrawal. During the last league -we focus on this competition because we consider that it is the one that allows us to assess the continued performance of a footballer- Piqué was the seventh most used player in the entire squad and the second central defender, after Ronald Araujo -with only 174 minutes plus-.
The Barça 3, despite his 35 years, has closed the League ahead of Eric (+53’), Mingueza (+1.205’), lenglet (+1.280’) y Umtiti (+2,006), the other center-backs of the team. And that in the final stretch he was affected by the abductor injury. Pique feels strong. So why give up when you feel almost essential?
The Puyol case
Carles Puyol retired at the end of the 2013-14 season. He was 36 years old. He was the first goodbye of one of the legends of the best Barça in history. Problems in his right knee condemned him to a terrible yearwith just five league games and 12, in all competitions.
Only the Dutchman Afellay and the youngsters Tello, Sergi Roberto, Jonathan, Adama and Dongou played fewer minutes. In his absence, Mascherano and Piqué played as undisputed starters while Bartra and Song covered holes.
There was no other way out. The great captain said goodbye in a gray season in which the team of Gerardo Martino he barely won the Spanish Super Cup —against Atlético—. Gone are 21 titles and 593 games in 15 seasons for Barça. Legend.
Behind him, Xavi
A year later Xavi Hernández left, but the circumstances were completely different. The Terrassa midfielder, who was 34 years old at the time, understood the message of his coach, Luis Enrique Martínez, convinced of the need for a first change of pieces.
Xavi was the 12th most used player and, furthermore —in a definitive message— he saw how in the final of the Champions League in Berlin against Juventus the midfield was made up of Sergio, Rakitic e Iniesta. Xavi played 44 games that season, but only 21 as a starter in addition to ten calls in which he stayed on the bench without intervening.
767 games for Barça, 17 seasons at the Camp Nou and 25 titles later, Xavi as substitute. It was so hard that it became unbearable. He closed the year raising a hat-trick and signing for Qatari Al-Sadd where he played four more seasons adding four new championships to his record. Legend.
Iniesta, the third
At the end of the 2017-2018 season he left Andres Iniesta, at 33 years old and after 16 exercises, 674 games and 32 titles dressed as a Barça player. Before leaving, he lifted the League and the Cup as captain with Ernesto Valverde on the bench, but also after experiencing the catastrophe in Rome in the European Cup and attending Real Madrid’s thirteenth in kyiv, against Liverpool.
Iniesta played a lot, as much as 44 games, but in the League he was the player number 11 with the most minutes, eternally substituted, surpassed by two other insiders like Rakitic —who played 999 minutes more— and Paulinho —108′, more—. Another winner with tummy aches.
His mentality, like that of his friend Xavi, was not enough not to be the protagonist. The footballer from La Mancha did not want to be a problem and disappeared. He left for Japan to play for Vissel Kobe where today, at 38 years old, he still exhibits his great talent.
Gerard, as has been seen, has not had the physical warnings of Puyol or the sporting ones of Xavi and Iniesta. Beyond his DNI – no one who has not been careful could endure 18 seasons at the highest level – his abductor injury could be ready before the start of the new season and, as has been written, today he smells like a starter .
But there is one more thing that we should not forget: in Xavi’s head there is a Barça for the present but also for the future, a team with energy capable of reversing a negative dynamic that only adds one title – the Koeman Cup, in April 2022 , 4-0 against Athletic—, in three seasons, a Barcelona with new faces and new leaders, with youngsters who are hungry for titles and who dream of emulating their idols Puyol, Xavi and Iniesta. Does Piqué fit in this Barça? He thinks so. He carries it, too, if he focuses on the ball. He loved the challenge that the player threw at him in the last conversation they had: “Bring me the best centre-back in the world and I’ll make him a substitute.”Xavi knows Piqué well. He was his partner and knows about his quality and his mentality as a footballer, but also about his needs and vital habits. The coach, now, has to wait attentively to any news that may come from the offices and that affects the future of his veteran player, on the other hand, in doubt also about his ability to exercise leadership in the locker room that promotes order, discipline and rigor, fundamental elements in the construction of a champion team , or a role from the substitution that helps the cohesion of the group and supports the coach. Piqué will also have to pass this exam…
It’s your turn. Yours. Put content at the time of Piqué…