Despite winning more at 28 than most footballers win in an entire career, Gerard Pique does not find it hard to stay motivated.
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The Barcelona centre-back has won 16 major trophies, but it’s the pain of last season that keeps the desire burning.
Although the Catalan giants have returned invigorated this season – the form of red-hot trio Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar firing Luis Enrique’s side towards the cusp of the treble – the fire rages on within the Spaniard.
Barca have already wrestled the La Liga crown back from Atletico Madrid and snatched the Copa del Rey back from the grasp of perennial rivals Real, but it is only a fourth Champions League triumph in 10 years tomorrow night that might, perhaps, leave the thirst of Pique and his cohorts quenched.
The 2013/14 season was catastrophic by the Catalan giants’ high standards, one in which they failed to win any significant piece of silverware for the first time in five years.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) June 6, 2015
They were pipped to the Spanish title by Atleti – the first team bar Barca or Real to win the domestic title since Valencia in 2003/04.
Los Rojiblancos proved to be Barca’s nemesis, also knocking them out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage. They reached the Copa del Rey final but lost 2-1 to Real.
Despite the disappointment of last season, Pique insists the hunger remains despite the lack of success after the illustrious Pep Guardiola reign ended.
He and his team-mates have typified that hunger on their way to tonight’s final against the Champions of Italy.
“The hunger is still there, but it has always been like this,” said the centre-back.
“Last year was a disappointment but we fought a lot and this year (is) the same. Not because last year we didn’t win titles so we are more hungry or trying harder.
“It is our job and the team is really excited because we can win the treble. We are on a good run and I think we can do a real important season.”
It has been a long road to Berlin’s Olympiastadion for Barca. It is amazing how much difference a year makes – even half a year.
The 2014/15 season and Enrique’s reign hardly got off to a smooth start.
Barca were beaten in the Champions League by Paris Saint-Germain and by Real and Malaga in La Liga within the space of a month before Christmas.
There were murmurs of disharmony in the Barca camp, of a breakdown in the relationship between Enrique and his talisman, Messi.
Los Blancos were the darlings of the media, on the cusp of greatness themselves, just three victories away from setting a world record for the most consecutive competitive wins at the turn of the year.
Then their own club record 22-game winning run was ended by Valencia.
A 1-0 loss at Athletic Bilbao on March 7 and subsequent 6-1 win for Barca over Rayo Vallecano the following day saw Enrique’s men ascend to the top of La Liga for the first time in four months.
It was a position they could not be ousted from, the firepower of Barca’s brilliant front three turning on the afterburners in 2015 as they blew everyone else away.
Campions!!!! Força Barça! pic.twitter.com/9MqkdZvH2A
— Gerard Piqué (@3gerardpique) May 30, 2015
With criticism and doom-mongering now giving way to adulation, Pique says it’s easy for players to drown out the noise and concentrate on the game.
“As a player, what is important for us is the scores, the matches,” he said.
“We know everything that we do is going to be for the team and we should not be concentrating on the outside noise. We do our speaking on the field, to improve the situation of the club.”
At Barca, Pique has won four La Liga titles, two Copa del Rey’s, two Champions Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups and two FIFA Club World Cups.
Add in the World Cup he won with Spain, 2012’s European Championship triumph and the English Premier League and Champions League winners’ medals he won while a youngster at Manchester United – it’s an impressive haul for a player not yet 30.
Despite his glorious collection and recently becoming a father for the second time, Pique is adamant there is no loss of motivation.
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) June 6, 2015
“The feeling when you win, I don’t think it’s difficult to keep your excitement, to keep your motivation,” he said.
“It’s something that is within us and we are fighting every year to win titles.
“We are in a club like Barcelona, a really big, important club. We need to fight for titles until the end of the season and try to win it all. I am very confident that Barca is going to recover all the terrain (of last season).”
You are good friends with both Cesc Febregas and Bojan. What do you make of their differing seasons?
Cesc is a top player. Chelsea have Diego Costa and Eden Hazard but I think the main player there is Cesc. His assists, his passes, he can score goals, he can defend. He is a really complete player.
Bojan was really unlucky because he was starting to feel important in the team. He was starting to score important goals and it’s a shame he got injured. I was talking to him the other day to ask how he feels and I hope he can recover as soon as he can.
What do you think about your old club Manchester United’s problems in central defence?
It’s really difficult to find another pair of centre backs like Rio (Ferdinand) and (Nemanja) Vidic. They were two top centre backs in the last decade and now it will be tough to find replacements. They are struggling, but it happens. It happened here too, in Barcelona.
Is there any chance we will see you back in Premier League one day or out here in the Middle East?
I don’t think so (laughs). I’m loving my career, loving football and all I want to do is play football with Barcelona, and I am not thinking about anything else.
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