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24.10.2009 11:01

“I'm surprised at the level I've reached”

Sandra Sarmiento

In just over a year since he rejoined the club, Gerard Piqué has become a vital piece in the machine that brought the Five Cups to the Nou Camp. His spectacular progress with Barca has made him one of Europe's most valuable players.

When he was just 17,Piqué left Barca to try his luck in the Premier League with Manchester United, but he wasn't given many opportunities to show his worth and it was only when he played on loan at Zaragoza that it became clear that this was a player who could make it in the elite of the game. His return to the Nou Camp last season and his progress just confirmed his class and his place in the top flight. Barça TV and www.fcbarcelona.cat caught up with him this week

Did you expect to have made such spectacular progress in just over a year here?

“No. I was confident that if the boss gave me the chance to play then I could prove myself and help the team, but I've been surprised at the level I've reached – of course you always think that you will improve, but I wasn't expecting it to happen so quickly. It's also helped that we won so much last season, playing in a team like Barca where we seemed to be wining everything, let's hope that continues!”

Do you like being compared to Beckenbauer?

2009-08-20_PIQUE_01.jpg“Well, I think that's a bit exaggerated – I'm still at the start of my career and I've got a long way to go to be on the same level as him. He won the European Player of the Year Award and that's not easy for a defender. He's Beckenbauer and I'm Piqué, that's all there is to it really.

You still hadn't been born when he won the 74 World Cup, but he remains a model for you?

“The little I've seen him play, yes. I love his style, being able to bring the ball out from the back and into midfield, getting forward, scoring goals. That's a way of playing which we admire at Barca. Of course I never saw him play live though”.

You've scored twice with Barca this season already. You're a defender, but you score like a striker!

“I think it's just innate – the ball comes to you and you have to react quickly. Sometimes it works out okay for me and sometimes not. I had quite a few chances last season and the ball just wouldn't go in. I just want to take advantage of this good riun and score some more!”

How's the team reacted to the last couple of results against Valencia and Rubin Kazan?

fcb-valencia_x26x.JPG“It's not that easy to take after such a run of victories and the fans are now used to us winning, so it seems odd to them when we don't. People are saying the team's not playing well, there's a crisis, but that's over the top and if we beat Zaragoza then everything will be forgotten again. The fans don't need to worry”.

Zaragoza are a team that you know well

The season I spent there showed me that I could make it in the top flight. I was 19 and we had a great season, making the classification for UEFA, which is good for Zaragoza. I had a great time and made some very good friends there”.

There aren't many players left from that time, but this season they've signed Franck Songo’o, who played with you as a youngster, didn't he?”

“That's tight. He's a good friend. I see him in Barcelona at times, he also spent time in England and we've coincided quite a bit. He''s a skilful player, very fast and a goal scorer. I hope it all works out for him in Zaragoza”.

Alves' injury has again opened the debate about whether the squad is big enough. What do you think?

2009-10-01_ENTRENO_28.JPG“It's a small squad, but it was last year too. The boss has always gone for that and if he's short he dips into the reserves, which is always a good option. I don't think we are short at all though. The team has given its all in every game and we have enough possibilities for rotations to keep pushing on”.

Bartra, Fontàs, Muniesa. Do they have what it takes to make it as first team players?

“Definitely. I've been in their situation and the most important is to be keen and know how to play the ball, the rest – the physical aspect- will come along. They have everything and just need experience. They need to be patient and keep playing with Barça Atlètic and their chance will come”.

With Alves out, do you think you'll move out to right back?

“No, not at all. I only played they once with Zaragoza – at the Bernabeu. I did okay in that game, but I wasn't too comfortable. Having the line on one side and knowing you can't move any further to the right, which of course you can as a centre half, well that takes a bit of getting used to. But if the boss asks me to, then yes, I'll play there”.

Puyol has reached an agreement with the club. Do you see yourself in the future as his replacement as captain?

2009-10-01_ENTRENO_08.JPG“That's a long way off. It would be an honour to wear the armband, but right now there are a lot of home grown players in the team who are leaders in the team. Puyol first of all, but also Xavi, Victor, Andres... there's a long time to go, I'd love to be captain one day, but now is nowhere near the time to be thinking about it”

Six Barca players are up for the European Player of the Year Award and Guardiola has said that is a prize for the team. Do you agree?

“It's one more title we could win. We had a great season last year and we were all a part of that, botht he players who are still here and those who've moved on. Whoever wins, and I'm sure it will be one of our team, it'll be as if we've all won it, we'll feel it as our own”.

Are the team motivated by the prospect of the World Club Cup ?

“It's something we've not won as a club and I'm sure we'll put that right this year by winning it. We can then finally say we've won every competition. That's what we are missing and that will push our motivation to go and take it”.
“I'm surprised at the level I've reached”

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Yellow card in Mestalla
The appeals committee turned down the club's attempt to have last weekend's yellow card rescinded, something Piqué finds hard to understand: “the ref said I was wasting time – that's something Barca never do if we are not wining. I touched the ball in the box and the rules don't say that has to be a yellow card. The club's done everything possible, but what can we do?”

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