El País Interview: Gerard Piqué

Gerard Piqué sat down with Luis Martín of El País and talked about wanting to be the president of Barça, listening to Shakira in the locker room, and being a World Cup champion…

He traducido la entrevista de Gerard Piqué con El País al inglés, en donde habla sobre su deseo de ser el presidente del Barça, la música de Shakira, y lo que recuerda de la copa mundial… 

Gerard Piqué was born in Barcelona 24 years ago.  He was so young when he first stepped foot in Camp Nou, that he doesn’t remember it.  He played football with oranges he would grab from the shelves in the supermarket at age three; he joined the social tournament of Barça by age six, and joined Manchester United by age 16.  Back home, he was determined to win titles and won them all, including the 2010 World Cup, in which Franz Beckenbauer called him the best center in the world.  He met his current girlfriend, Colombian singer Shakira, during the video shoot for the official song of the World Cup.  On Wednesday, he’ll play against Real Madrid in his third consecutive Champions League semifinal.

When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to play football.  I wanted with my family and play for Barça.  I liked Figo and Guardiola because they were great players, but I wanted to be a center, so I never had a player I could look up to in that sense.  Camp Nou played a big part in my childhood landscape.  When I was six or seven, I went to a torneo social after scoring two goals and winning 3-1 as a striker.  I was then put as a center.  My time in Barcelona was centered around studying, playing football, and having fun.  I didn’t expect anything else.  I never dreamed of reaching the first team.  I just liked what I did and was having fun.

You never told yourself ‘someday, I’ll play in Barça’?

No, it was self-preservation.  I had seen people who stayed and had never been called up and I didn’t want to create a sense of failure and frustration. “Why would I let myself think about the first team  si me llevaré una hostia como un piano”, I thought to myself.

What did you think when your cousin, Montserrat, was born (who suffers from Down Syndrome)?

I don’t even remember when my brother was born!  I slowly started realizing it.  My cousin Montserrat is a wonderful human being.  She may seem different, but when you talk to her, you realize that she thinks like you do, feels like you do, and enjoys things like you do… They are like us, but just at a slower speed.  You don’t love her more or less.  You love her because of who she is.  I have been lucky to have been surrounded by love and I try to give love to those around m

Are you a snob or do you just seem that way?

I have had certain opportunities that not everyone has had – if that’s what you mean by a snob.  But, above all, I have a very close family and have always been surrounded by a lot of love.  I thought that everyone had the same type of family growing up, but by 13 or 14 years old I began to realize that people have problems, that not all of my friends had the same fate, some parents got divorced… It was an emotional blow to see that these things happened.  It made realize how lucky I was.  My mother, who is a charming and superintelligent woman… always tried to teach me to be a good person, worried about my studies… It was an obsession.  And, well, she was a very lucky woman:  she has a very extraordinary son (laughs).

Sometimes, I feel like you might give her a heart attack.  You have filled her house with paparazzi.

No way!  I never got into trouble.  She always says that I was a good boy and that, I never caused her any problems.  I consider myself a good son.  The photographers… she has always said that that too, will pass… But to be honest, I consider myself a good son.  That’s my number one concern:  being a good son.

Was your father also a footballer?

My father always played in el pueblo.  He has worked as a director for a glass construction company for many years.  I always expected to inherit the company if this whole football thing didn’t work out.

Do you like being a footballer for what happens on the field or what happens outside of it?

I like being a footballer to play games and to win titles.  But the memories that stay with you are those that you have lived with your teammates.  The titles, the money… Yes, vale, but in the end, you remember the people you met.

Do you know you put out an image of being frivolous?

Well, I’ve always liked attention.  But I’m a perfectionist.  I over-analyze, I think too much.  Things haven’t always come easily for me.  Moving to England at 17 being used always getting called up as starter, playing for a fantastic team, being home… It was difficult and, at times, I thought:  “¡A tomar por culo! It’s not worth it!”  But my career would have not been the same if I hadn’t gone to Manchester.  I learned a lot during the training sessions.  It’s not enough to be tall and have control of the ball.  You need to use your body, to defend without the ball… I also learned how to live through difficult times.  My mom would call and I would tell her that everything was fine, but I would do so while holding back tears.  She was also going through a tough time and I couldn’t just tell her “Mom, I’m coming back tomorrow, I’m done, I miss you.”  I had to tell her that everything was fine.  What was I supposed to do?  It was very difficult.

What were you hoping for?

I didn’t give it much thought!  The opportunity came along and I said: “¡Qué guay!”  I knew it was important for my career, but I didn’t think about the day to day consequences of my decision.  I imagine what it must have been like for Andrés (Iniesta) or Leo (Messi) at 12 years old… I wouldn’t have lasted five minutes.  Well, Leo had his dad…

You know Leo since the first day.

Yes, I remember it perfectly. We thought he was a mute.  He is totally normal.  He’s the same on the pitch and off.  He makes something very difficult seem easy.  It seems impossible that he would be so natural and, at the same time, wanting to be the best and wanting to win.  He’s a crack.  Today, I switched out his cell phone battery and he didn’t even notice.  He was going around the locker room asking for a charger:  “Che, I’ve charged my mobile and it’s still without any juice.”

And Pep Guardiola.

You can’t touch him.  I have thought about messing with him, believe me, but:  if Pep gets angry, I can’t play.

Does el míster reprimand you?

At first, he was always on me.  It made sense, since I was new, but he’s realized that I’m extremely professional, that I can separate when it’s time to julujulu and when it’s time to work.  He’s very happy with me and that makes me very happy.  I’ve proven that I am a very centered footballer (laughs).  In all seriousness, I’ve always been very professional, but I like to laugh, share with my teammates, and go out with friends… but up to a certain point.  I’m very careful and responsible, but I’ve always liked to be a bit different.

Do you understand why football creates so much passion?

No, but if I weren’t on the field, I’d be in the stands.  Football is addictive.  It’s pure adrenaline.  But the last point at a Wimbledon final of five hours also makes me crazy; and it’s a high to see Jordan in the last second, even if I’ve seen it 100 times…

Do you watch Jordan’s games?

Yes, of course.  And the finals of Nadal, Pau Gasol… They’re very exciting.

And the ones you’ve played with Barça?

No.  I’ve seen pictures, of course.  But, for example, I haven’t watched the 2-6 against Madrid since then.

What do you remember?

The details… It was the first time I played at Bernabéu.  I had played against them in Zaragoza, but it was special with Barça.  We were four points ahead and it seemed as if nothing would happen if we lost.  Pep would yell from the bench:  “If we lose, we lose the league.”  We gave it our all… From the 2-4, it was like a dream.  If you want me to be honest, I don’t remember anything.  Not a thing.  It was pure adrenaline!

Do you feel as though you were born to play these types of games?

No.  Going back to what I said before, I’ve been lucky to have been born with the qualities I have and the opportunities I have been given.  But, beyond that, like Xavi says, even luck takes work.  If you put in the effort, work, believe in what you do, and you have a bit of luck, maybe you’ll get it.  That’s my philosophy.  I’ve been lucky to have had talent, but I’ve worked hard for it.  This team has fought to be where we are:  leaders, runners-up in the Copa del Rey, and ready for the Champions League.  We have a lot of talent and we have worked very hard to get to where we are.

Xavi said he likes to play at Bernabéu.  Do you?

Yes, it’s great.  I don’t know why, but I like it more when people are against us.  There are players that when they are whistled at, they hide.  But I’m the opposite.  It motivates me.  Winning in Madrid is a very unique feeling.

And losing?

Losing the final in the Copa del Rey was hard, because you know that some people were very sad… It’s part of the game and you have to accept it.  We have to keep fighting.  This team has earned the right to lose, so long as we do so defending our style, as we did in the Copa del Rey final.

Do you think the final marks the end of an era?

No way!  We’ve lost the Cup, but we are close to winning the League and the chance to play another semifinal with Madrid.  Basically, the end of an era is the league.

Are you tired of playing against Madrid?

You don’t get tired of competing.  It just so happens that the decisive games this year have been against them.  We are making history.  It doesn’t happen very often.

During the games both teams seemed angry, is there any bitterness?

No.  I have a clear conscience.  I haven’t stepped on anyone and I have been extremely respectful of my colleagues on the field.

And outside of it?  You have been accused of insulting the King…

By whom?  A journalist?  It’s a lie.  I know what I said and those who were there know what I said.  They also said that someone spit on me.  I have nothing to say about it.  I just know that we tied, they proved to be a great rival, and we left with eight points.

Do you have something to say about the grass?  Was it really high?

Yes, it was high.  But I’m not going to cry about it.  It’s normal for them to find a way to stop our passing game.  Mourinho uses everything at his disposal.  But in the end, they are an equipazo, with very good strikers.

How difficult is it to be a center for Barça?

I don’t know… It’s difficult, yes.  You have very little support… But in a team where the culture is to pass the ball, you can take a risk and enjoy more of the ball.  I’m used to it.  I’ve been playing this way since I was 10 years old.  I played with a defense of three (two at my side) until I was 16 years old.  The most difficult thing, is the frequency of games and the fact that we can never lose – not against Madrid, not against anyone.  Then you add to that the games with the national team…  I don’t know… In Lithuania, the field was shit… But, you need to focus.  To me, it can be difficult.  When you play every three days, some games are more difficult than others.  People like Giggs, who is playing at 37, seem like they are from another planet.  Or like Puyol, who comes to games as if they were all the final of the Champions League and you think:  “Nano, relaxat” (Relax, man).

That’s why you’ve said you’d quit at 30…

I’m very tired, nano!

Do you imagine you’ll be a coach?

Nooo!  I want to be president of Barça one day… As a coach, I imagine Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Puyol…

In the style of Laporta o Rosell?

In the style of Piqué, of course.

Can you imagine a Barça without Puyol?

No, I can’t, but it’ll happen.  I’ve missed him a lot this year.  I still remember the day he came back, in Bilbao, I think… In the middle of the game, I told him “Puyi, et trobava tant a faltar” (Puyi, I missed you).  He told me to stop messing around (dejara de hostias) and to focus.  He never stops!  Did I tell you about the time he yelled at me when they had stopped the game? They were tending to someone, the stretcher was on the field, we were winning 4-0, there were three minutes to go and he’s yelling at me: “Gerard!” “What? The game has stopped…” “Whatever, pay attention because I know how distracted you can be!” I was dying, I was laughing so hard.  Puyi, in that sense, has taught me a lot.  The worst was what happened to Abidal.  But he’s getting better and will be with us next season.

How do you get along with Mascherano?

Great.  He’s a great teammate, he doesn’t have a mean bone in his body.  And as a player… He’s the captain of Argentina… He’s awesome tactically.

Do you think you’ll play together in Bernabéu?

I don’t know.  It depends on el míster, if Puyi is still out…

Do you visualize games before you play them?

Not really.  You can’t really mess with these games.  You leave the hotel and go.  I love it when people insult us, throw things at us… It gives me an adrenaline rush.  But there are people that hate us to the death.  It’s hilarious.  It’s just a game!  You want to win, of course, but I don’t think it’s everything.

Does it bother your girlfriend when they insult you?

It’s not pleasant for her.  There are times when they insult me, and if it’s a clever insult, I’ll think it’s funny.  But she’s a smart woman and knows how this goes.  If she was standing in front of them, they’d ask for her autograph.

What rituals do you have before playing at Bernabéu?

The same ones as always.  Alves puts some music on, I bandage my ankles.  I’ve done this since I was 17 and I got a bad sprain playing for Manchester.  There’s a physical therapist, Jaume, who works with me exclusively.  Afterwards, I put on my headphones and listen to my own music, because the music Alves listens to is, frankly, unbearable…

What do you listen to?

Shakira.

No one will believe you!

¡¡¡Que sí, máquina!!! Well, I also listen to The Killers, The James, Happy Mondays, a lot of Manchester Sound… Do you know them?

Don’t offend me with that question, I’ve danced at La Hacienda.  But back to Bernabéu…

Yes, I’ll watch the videos, I’ll review what the coach has said, I review my strategy with Tito (Vilanova)… and I warm up.  I don’t really visualize the game.  Each play requires a response.  I review their strong points, I remind myself that I need to defend well, I remember who is a leftie… I always remember that.

If you played in Madrid…

I’m not a Madrid player.  I don’t think I could ever be one.

What is your relationship with the Real Madrid players that play for the national team?

Are you asking because of what happened with Ramos in Barcelona?  It’s forgotten.  It was a heated moment.  You can understand his reaction:  you’ve lost 5-0 and it hurts.  No pasa nada.

And in the Copa del Rey final?

What happened in the final?  They won and they should be happy and proud.  I congratulated them from the bottom of my heart.  Period.  And on to the next game…

What is your feeling about the national team?

You wouldn’t be asking me this question if I wasn’t Catalan, would you?  It’s very sad.  I’ve been playing for the national team since I was 16 years old and I gave it my all in South Africa, literally, and yet I still hear nonsense about me insulting the Spanish.  I don’t want to talk about this anymore, because it upsets me.  For those who doubt me, I want to remind you that I won the World Cup with La Roja, in case you have forgotten.  And I gave it my all.

What do you remember about the World Cup?

I remember the great atmosphere in South Africa and our desire to be the best in the world  I also remember the wisdom of Del Bosque, who ignored the press when he was criticized for playing Busquets and Alonso.  He was faithful to his ideas and in turn, showed his confidence in our team.  We gained confidence when he said “I’ll play like I think we should play.”  We passed the group stage.  We played our best in the third game and we got used to living that way.  We didn’t concede a goal after the first game.  Our team was working well defensively.  And we had players up front who destabilized the rival.  I remember Villa was on fire… I will remember that month for the rest of my life.

You once said that there is no better mood than to live in love.

I still believe that.


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