Piqué praises Pep; compares coaches, playing styles

Piqué praises Pep; compares coaches, playing styles

The central defender touches on a host of topics about his past, present, and future at Tuesday's Champions League press conference

The questions are there. Everybody is asking them. And on Tuesday at the Ciutat Esportiva, FC Barcelona central defender Gerard Piqué gave his point of view.

“It’s difficult to compare them,” he began, before quickly coming to terms with the litany of similarities between his former manager, Pep Guardiola — who’s coming to town tomorrow, now at the helm of Manchester City — and his current manager, Luis Enrique Martínez.

“In the first two years they were both here at Barça, they won the same. They both won the treble, they both won two La Liga titles.”

Piqué also spoke about a side of both men that is less often seen. “On a personal level, too,” he said. “I’ve gotten along with both.”

He continued: “Luis Enrique came the year after Tata [Martino], when the team was down. Pep came the year after [Frank] Rijkaard, also when the team was down.”

“They are very similar,” he concluded. “We are in another golden age for Barça and I hope we can keep it up.”

Perhaps not so surprising, beyond Wednesday night’s two coaches, the teams themselves are comparable in style, according to Piqué.

“Pep has made them change their approach to football,” he said. “It’s similar to our style. They bring pressure up the field, they create pressure on the outlet.”

Then, from one reporter, came the million-dollar question: Under Guardiola, especially when compared to them under their former coach, Manuel Pellegrini, is City now a threat to Barça?

“It’s a different team than under Pellegrini,” Piqué said. “They create pressure differently, more like us.”

“Pep understands the game like we do,” he said.

Beyond addressing the comparisons between the managers and teams facing off on Wednesday night, Piqué did delve into several other areas. Here are the highlights of what he had to say:

On whether Barça is thinking about sewing up Group C or just getting the three points:

“Of course, we want to win and be first. The objective is take a big step.”

“If we win tomorrow, we’re essentially guaranteed a spot in the last 16. It’s key.”

On his and the team’s relationship with Pep:

“Pep was an influence on all of us. There was a before and after. He changed the history of this Club. I have nothing but praise for a coach who gave everything, and who gave me a chance here. We have great memories.”

On whether he’d like to play another position:

“I have the most fun playing central defender.”

On how he’s handling the gruelling schedule:

“I’m not getting tired, I like playing every three days. I like to help out the team as much as possible. Even with Sam [Umtiti] and [Jérémy] Mathieu out I am happy to play more.”

On his long term outlook:

“Normally I set short-, middle- and long-term goals. We’ll see how it goes. It depends on your legs. Motivation is key. I have two years to have fun with Spain and try to win the World Cup. And with Barça we’ll see how many years I can go.”

On what he does and doesn’t like about football in this day and age:

“I like that we have more access to the game, more TV, the leagues in Germany, England, France, around the world. Before it was very tough, just Spain. I like the global game, seeing all the players, as a fan it’s great.”

“Something I don’t like is the culture of focusing on the stuff that goes on outside the lines. But maybe it sells more and that’s why the media focuses on it.”

On what City can do to stop Messi:

"Ask Pep. Messi is the best in the world. His mere presence is a difference-maker.”

On Manchester City going after Barça players:

“Pep has another job now. It’s normal for a club with money to try and get players, whether from Barça or otherwise. It’s not strange. It’s not like because Pep’s from here, and he’s part of the family, that he can’t go after players from here.”

On being close to quitting football a few years back:

“Motivation is everything. I was close to quitting Spain, quitting Barça, and just walking away. You have enough money to live the rest of your life. After the 2014 World Cup, I didn’t have any passion. I spoke with several coaches and decided to keep going. Maybe it was because I won everything at a young age. Then they spoke about Luis Enrique coming, bringing in some fresh air, trying to get back as one of the best teams in the world. I wanted to be a part of it, and now I’m at the peak of my career, having fun.”

On how Messi looks after coming back from injury:

“Leo looks good. He’s the best in the world. The best in history, in my opinion. But Argentina doesn’t win everything, it’s not just him. We all have to play well. But he does make a difference.”

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