Barcelona face Real Madrid in El Clasico this afternoon, that most iconic of European football fixtures. Much of the pre-match talk has centred around the absence of Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos, both of whom departed for Paris Saint-Germain this past summer. But one veteran still available for the tie is Gerard Pique.
Now that Messi no longer calls the Camp Nou home, the Catalan centre-back is undisputedly the most important man at the club, certainly its living embodiment. Now 34, he came through La Masia before departing for Manchester United in 2004. He returned to Barcelona in 2008, and has become a club legend.
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Pique has led Barcelona to eight La Liga titles, seven Copa del Rey titles, six Supercopa de Espana titles, three Champions League titles, three European Super Cups and three Club World Cups. With La Roja, he won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.
His experience is more important now than ever given that Barcelona are in the midst of a period of such tumultuous transition. He stepped up to the plate midweek to score the decisive goal in Barcelona’s Champions League victory over Dynamo Kyiv, becoming the competition’s highest-scoring defender in the process.
Speaking with El Pais in comments carried by Marca, Pique spoke about the difficulty of adapting to the post-Messi era following his departure, comparing it to what Madrid experienced when Cristiano Ronaldo departed for Juventus in the summer of 2018.
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“You could have never imagined that he would leave,” Pique said. “But, of course. It’s difficult when the best player in the history of the club leaves. Madrid, when Cristiano left, also went through a time when they couldn’t score a goal against a rainbow.
“So have we. We’ve lived with Leo for many years, but now we have to find new references. The problem is that Leo gave you everything. Leo did everything. You have to find players who give you what only he could give you.”