The center-back has been performing at a top level for many years but is 35
The debate is open. Do you think Pique should retire? Or is he right and he will be able to show his best next season again? And if so, what role will he have in the team? What did other legends do in their later years at Barca? Xavi, Puyol, Iniesta.
Before getting into the debate, we must understand that Gerard Pique has taken his decision. He will stay. The club accept it. He has two more years on his deal. However, Xavi has spoken to him straight. For the first time in 18 years as a professional, he’s had to hear a coach say he does not want him. Tough, for a champion like Pique with nine leagues seven cups, a World Cup and a Euros, among other pots. 36 of them, and 756 games as a pro. A legend.
Joan Laporta spoke to him too, with care. He respects him as a player and person. Pique has pledged to focus on his football. We will see how it goes. We’ll also see what Barcelona can do in the market. What if Jules Kounde, of Sevilla, comes? Andreas Christensen of Chelsea, 26 years old, is arriving. However we look at the stats and with the ball, there are none that suggest Pique is diminishing. He was the seventh most used player in the squad, playing just 174 minutes less than Ronald Araujo.
Despite being 35, he finished the season with more minutes than Eric (+53 ‘), Mingueza (+1.205’), Lenglet (+1.280 ‘) and Umtiti (+2.006). Pique feels strong, so why would he want to stop?
Carles Puyol retired at the end of the 13-14 season. He was 36. It was the first goodbye for a major Barca legend. His knee problems forced him to only appear in five league games. Only Afellay, Tello, Roberto, Jonathan, Adama and Dongou played less minutes. Mascherano and Pique were the starting center-backs. Bartra and Song filled the gaps. Puyi had to go. The great captain left after a sad year, but had 21 titles and 593 games in 15 seasons at the club.
A year later, the midfielder left. He was 34, and the circumstances were very different. Xavi was the 12th most used player by Luis Enrique, and appeared in 44 games, albeit only 21 as a starter. 767 games at Barcelona in 17 seasons and 25 titles later. Xavi did not like being a substitute and he left with the treble and played four years more at Al-Sadd in Qatar, adding nine more trophies.
At the end of the 17-18 season, Andres INiesta left at 33, and 16 seasons, 674 games and 32 titles. He won the league and cup as captain under Ernesto Valverde, but he also suffered the Roma collapse in Europe and watched Real Madrid in the Champions League. Iniesta played 44 times, but was the 11th player in the team in terms of minutes in the league and was eternally substituted. Rakitic and Paulinho featured more. His mentality was to go when he was not the protagonist. He did not want to be a problem. He left for Japan, where he’s still playing at 38 with Vissel Kobe.
Gerard does not have the physical issues of Puyol or the sporting ones Xavi and Iniesta had. Beyond his DNA, nobody who has not looked after themselves can play 18 seasons at the top level. He had a thigh issue but it might be fixed by next season and right now, he still feels like a starter. But there’s one thing we can not forget. Xavi is thinking about the Barcelona of the future, a team with the energy to overcome their bad dynamic, with just one trophy in three seasons, with new faces and new leaders, youngsters who are hungry and want to emulate their heroes. Does Pique fit? He thinks so. Laporta too, if Pique focuses on the game. “Bring the best center back in the world in and I’ll make him into a sub, & rdquor; said Pique in the meeting. Xavi knows Pique well. They were teammates. He knows his quality and strengths, but also his needs and habits. Now he is waiting to hear from the offices about any new arrival that could have an impact on Pique’s future.