In the lead-up to Saturday's UEFA Champions League final, FC Barcelona central defender Gerard Piqué talked UEFA.com through his Camp Nou team-mates. Born in Barcelona, the 24-year-old spent four years at Manchester United FC before returning to his home-town club in 2008 and promptly picking up three Liga titles and a UEFA Champions League winners' medal.
The best goalkeeper for Barça's style. He is phenomenal with his feet, and on the two or three occasions in a match when our opponents get near our goal he always makes a save. He wins you a lot of points and saves a lot of matches like that. For us, he's the No1.
He runs a lot. He runs up and down for 90 minutes, and is impressive physically. He gives us a lot of energy in attack when we are struggling – we have Leo and Villa [up front], but him and Pedro come from the wings and that helps us a lot.
One day, when we were winning 5-0 or 6-0, he had a go at me for something. I don't know why because I had cleared the ball, and he was saying: 'You are not focusing, not being careful.' It was the 90th minute and we were 5-0 up ... and I said: 'Puyol, please!'
It was very emotional [when he returned after treatment for a liver tumour]. When they told us he was ill, it was a huge blow. To return to the team against Madrid [in the semi-final] knowing we were already through, he deserved that. He's a star as a person, and he creates a great atmosphere in the dressing room. This year he has been fabulous.
He's a player who gives us a lot in midfield. In matches which are very physical – as all the players apart from me are small – Keita gives us a lot of physical presence.
Very intelligent. He reads the game very well and varies his passes. He never slips up, he never makes mistakes with his passes.
He made a sacrifice to come here. He gave everything to come to a club like Barcelona ... and he made it. You have to give him credit, because you know that in the end he wanted to win trophies and he knew how to do that very well. He is a great lad, very intelligent. I get along with him very well.
He is the most influential player [in Spanish football]. He has won a European Championship, he has won the World Cup. He has been one of the most influential people in changing Spain's style of play, from playing well and losing to playing well and winning. That's what was missing, and Xavi has been the key to making that possible.
Just magic. He scores important goals – at Stamford Bridge, for example, in the 94th minute [of the 2009 semi-final second leg] or in the final of the World Cup. He will be remembered for that. He deserves it, because as a person he is a ten out of ten. He has had a great year because his daughter, Valleria, was born. We're all delighted about that.
We have been playing together since we were very young, since he came to the club aged 13 or 14. We have a great friendship. He is the best there is. He is already the best player in football history, and there is still more to come – his career has been great and still has a long way to go. We are still young. As I'm only 24 I can't really tell you much about Pelé or [Diego] Maradona, but Leo is definitely by far the best out there at the moment. He is such a lovely person. Being the best, he could behave in a different way, but he is just so lovely and creates a great atmosphere in the dressing room.
He has shown how much he can do in the last two years, though it took him a while to get going in the first year. The last two years have been something to see. Everything he has touched has gone in. He's always on the lookout and at key moments he is always there.
Because of his ability we already knew he would adapt well – he knew a lot of our players from the World Cup. He has fantastic figures with 18 goals in the league and many more in all competitions. In the end, that's what we need him for.
It is very difficult to describe myself. I always try to give the best I have. Off the pitch, I try to be the funniest one and to enjoy all of this, because it's a unique time which others in the history of this club haven't experienced – winning one Champions League and three league titles, and now being in another Champions League final. We have to have a smile on our faces and enjoy our lives, because it has been phenomenal.
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