Gerard Piqué, outcast of Blue & Redwall
Before Barcelona defeated PSG 3-1 in the final group stage match of the Champions League, Gerard Pique remembered himself …
I am that is. Take on my mighty role. Look for the sword In moonlight streaming forth, At night, when day’s first hour reflects the North. From o’er the threshold Seek and you will see; 1 – am that is, My sword will wield for me…
Ever the fashionista, Gerard Pique has turned up for tonight’s game dressed as a wooly knight: pic.twitter.com/IAXxuBGzmM
— Back Page Football (@bpfootball) December 10, 2014
It was cool inside the Camp Nou. Fluorescent light illuminated the hallways of the marvelous stade, gleefully dancing off the scarlet and blue walls, creating a festival of colors around Luis Enrique and Gerard Piqué as they moved within the historic monument. Luis halted in front of a cabinet that housed the club’s trophies. This was the pride and joy of the Blaugrana. The oldest section held trophies won under Joan Gamper, but each successive generation had added to it — Helenio Herrara, Luis Suárez (not that one, the good one), Carles Rexach. The Dream Team. The Guardiola era. The trophy cabinet was not only a collection of priceless treasures, but also a magnificent chronicle of Barcelona’s history. One could even say that it was més que un trophy cabinet.
Enrique studied the wonderment in Shakira’s husband’s eyes as he asked him a question, the answer to which the manager already knew. He could almost see the defender’s heart breaking. “What are you staring at, Piquénbauer?”
Piqué pointed to an individual in the team picture of the Guardiola-era Barcelona, a towering defender with a fearless smile on his handsome face. Clad in armor, he leaned casually on an impressive shield, decorated with pictures of attackers bloodied and exhausted after futile efforts to break the man’s guard.
“Oh, boss,” he sighed. “If only I could be like that again. I was the bravest and most courageous free-roaming centerback to have ever lived!”
Luis Enrique sat down slowly on the ancient floor, resting his back against the wall.
“Listen to me, Piqué. You have been like a son to me, and even though I have benched you without recourse numerous times this season, it has always been for your own good. Come, sit by me and I will explain to you why you will never be like that again.
“We are no longer that Barcelona. Oh, I know that you were once a capable defender, but those were the wild days when strength was needed. The strength of a champion that you once possessed. Born here, you played within our youth teams till the time came when you, who grew tall and strong, had to make a decision to challenge for a first-team spot or look beyond our walls for adventure.
“After years of exile in the cold of the English Premier League, playing for Manchester United — in a city without any restaurants — you were brought back by the great Pep Guardiola. Under him, you won countless trophies, enjoying your free role in defense within a team that maintained an oppressive percentage of possession. You became great and famous throughout the lands, even earning the nickname Piquénbauer, an ode to the magnificent Franz Beckenbauer.
“But after the departure of Guardiola, you were constantly bloodied and beaten by the opposition forwards. You were transformed by what could only be called a Rafael Marquez horror. You forsook the way of the defender and lost your place in the national team and your standing in the club.”
As Luis Enrique spoke, his voice increased in volume and solemnity. Piqué sat under his stem gaze, completely humbled. The manager stood and put a calloused hand on the defender’s handsome head, now drooping with shame.
Once more Luis Enrique’s heart softened towards the libero. “Poor Piqué, alas for your ambitions. The days of that version of you is gone, my son. We live in the age of the 3-2-3-2, thank heaven, and you need only think of obeying my technical instructions and doing as you are bidden. Come now my young friend, cheer up; we are to meet PSG in the final group match of the Champions League.”