How brilliant is Barcelona's Gerard Piqué?

The defensive rock upon which so many Barcelona sucesses have been built, Gerard Piqué is a prankster and a romantic as well as a terrific footballer.

A two-time UEFA Champions League winner and world champion before he turned 24, Gerard Piqué has enjoyed a seemingly never-ending cycle of trophies and triumphs for club and country. UEFA.com pays tribute to the towering defender.

What they say
"Gerard Piqué is a finished product, he's one of the best centre-backs in the world."
Josep Guardiola, former Barcelona coach

"Everyone knew how good a player he was. He had so many qualities. Maybe he wasn't suited to the Premier League, but Spain suits him down to the ground. Gerard has been phenomenal."
Rio Ferdinand, former Manchester United team-mate

"Piqué was a terrific player and I was deeply disappointed when he told us he wanted to move back to Spain. He was an exceptional passer of the ball and a great personality with a winning mentality."
Sir Alex Ferguson, former Manchester United manager

"He is a great communicator and he can be whoever he wants to be at Barça. When he finishes playing he could be a coach, a president, whatever he likes, because he's a Barcelona fan through and through, and he's a very intelligent guy."
Luis Enrique, Barcelona coach

Current tally
International: 85 appearances, 5 goals
UEFA club competition: 89 appearances, 11 goals
Domestic competition: 323 appearances, 29 goals

DID PIQUÉ MAKE YOUR TEAM OF THE YEAR?

Gerard Piqué celebrates a goal for United
Gerard Piqué celebrates a goal for United©AFP

Claims to fame
Manchester United
• Sir Alex Ferguson was so keen to sign the centre-half, just 17 at the time, that he joined the player and his family for dinner. "I was surprised, because he was the coach of United for 20 years and he had the time to come and speak with my family and with me," remembered Piqué, who has called Ferguson "a second father".

• Piqué made 23 appearances in all competitions for United over three seasons, scoring two goals as his side won the League Cup in 2006 and a Premier League and UEFA Champions League double in 2008. He spent the 2006/07 season on loan back in Spain with Real Zaragoza.

• Chose to return to Spain as he was unable to break up United's central defensive pairing of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidić. "They were one of the best centre-back partnerships in the world," he remembered. "It was really difficult for me to get in and get games."

My first UEFA Champions League memory: Gerard Piqué
My first UEFA Champions League memory: Gerard Piqué

Barcelona
• Piqué ended up being a European champion in successive seasons with different clubs; he made just three appearances in United's 2008 UEFA Champions League run, and did not even make the bench for the final, but was a starter as Barcelona beat his old club 2-0 in the 2009 decider in Rome. The game is remembered for Barça's supreme control in midfield but Piqué made a vital early intervention, bravely blocking a goal-bound shot from Ji-Sung Park to prevent United scoring first.

• Piqué has now lifted 24 trophies with Barcelona, including six Liga titles and three UEFA Champions Leagues, making him the joint fourth most decorated player in the club's history alongside Sergio Busquets, and behind only Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi and Xavi Hernández.

• A striker as a youngster, Piqué has always enjoyed getting forward and has an impressive 35 goals for Barça, making him the club's third top scoring centre-back, behind Alexanko (42 goals) and Ronald Koeman (90).

Watch Piqué and Spain win the 2006 U19 EURO
Watch Piqué and Spain win the 2006 U19 EURO

Spain
• A losing finalist at U17 level in 2004 against Karim Benzema's France, he won the 2006 UEFA European Under-19 Championship with Spain, but missed the decisive shoot-out penalty as his side were beaten by the Czech Republic in the quarter-finals of the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup.

• The defender made his Spain debut in a 2-0 friendly win against England on 6 February 2009 and enjoyed a dream competitive debut in a FIFA World Cup qualifier against Turkey the following month, grabbing the only goal in a 1-0 victory.

• Piqué won the World Cup in 2010 and UEFA EURO 2012 with Spain, striking an unexpected partnership with Real Madrid rival Sergio Ramos in the heart of defence as his club team-mate Carles Puyol was injured. “Now we have a great relationship," he said of his new found friendship with Ramos. "The day before every game we always meet up in the captain's room and speak about everything."

From the archives: Piqué speaks to UEFA.com in 2007

In action with Spain's Under-17s in 2004
In action with Spain's Under-17s in 2004©AFP

What you might not know
• Piqué was very much born and bred a Barcelona fan thanks to grandfather Amador Bernabéu, a longstanding club director and vice-president, who signed him up as a club member the day he was born.

• The defender had a traumatic brush with tragedy as a toddler, falling off a balcony in his grandparents’ house and spending hours in a coma before making a full recovery.

• Piqué took a particular interest in the dressing room pranks at Manchester United. "They do hilarious things to each other and it's fine; they don't complain, they just try to get their own back," he said, recalling one instance when team-mates burned Patrice Evra's brand new shoes. "I tried to do a few pranks when I went back to Barcelona, like deflating car tyres and they went ballistic at me." Piqué did not entirely lose his mischievous side, however, setting off a stink bomb on the team plane on a pre-season trip to Helsinki.

• He enjoyed a close albeit unlikely friendship with Barça team-mate Puyol, in many ways his polar opposite and who acted like an older, wiser brother. Piqué summed their contrasting characters up with an anecdote. "One time, the game was stopped, someone was on a stretcher, and he was shouting at me. I said to him: 'Calm down, it's 4-0.' He said: 'So what? Focus! I know you.' I was dying with laughter."

Gerard Piqué and his pop star partner Shakira
Gerard Piqué and his pop star partner Shakira©Getty Images

• Piqué began courting his partner Shakira before the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, first meeting the singer in Madrid to appear in the music video for her hit song Waka Waka alongside other Spain players. He then made a bold promise. "I knew that she'd be at the closing ceremony so I said to her: 'If I have to reach the World Cup final to see you again, I'll make sure Spain make it'." Over six years later, the couple are still together and have two children, while Piqué boasts a World Cup winners' medal. He must be glad he delivered on that pledge.

• A video games fanatic – particularly football games – the defender created his own game Golden Manager, setting up the company Kerad Games with his family.

• Piqué has a peculiar way of marking important wins: stealing goal nets. He cut the nets from the goals after each Champions League final win with Barça, and went to great lengths to take home the nets from the World Cup final in the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, heading to the groundsman's office to demand his unique souvenir.

Piqué and Shakira's Barcelona pride
Piqué and Shakira's Barcelona pride

What he says
• "I'm very impulsive and like to stray from the established way. It's as if we should all act in the way society wants and stay within certain limits but not me. I like to express myself – I do what I feel and I'm happy to be that way."

• "If you stop now and start to realise what you have achieved then you start to relax and you start to lose. I don't think about everything I have achieved. I will do it when I retire because then I will have a lot of days to remember."

• "It's a responsibility when you have won as much as I have done – as much as the teams I have played for have done – because the fans are waiting for more."

Xavi and Piqué: Barcelona's coach and president of the future?
Xavi and Piqué: Barcelona's coach and president of the future?©AFP

What he might achieve yet
• Piqué has already won every major trophy possible with Barcelona and since he plans to see out his career at his boyhood club, becoming the club's most decorated player is an achievable aim for the 29-year-old. The only problem is that Andrés Iniesta and Lionel Messi, who have six more trophies than him, show little sign of leaving.

• The defender has made no secret of his ambition to emulate his grandfather by becoming a Barcelona director, with his eyes on the top job of president. Xavi, a budding future Barça coach, loves the idea of working alongside him. "Piqué has great leadership qualities – he always achieves what he wants," said the former midfielder. "It'd be a dream to be the coach while he is president. I can certainly see it happening."

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