At 23 years old Gerard Pique is already one of the best centre backs in world football; he’s a regular for arguably the best team in the world, a regular for his country – who are quite possibly the best national team in the world – and he’s already got plenty of winners medals. I would even go as far as to say that Pique is the best of Barcelona’s defenders which is saying something when he’s up against the likes of Eric Abidal and Carles Puyol – fine defenders who any team would wish to possess. But Pique’s career could have turned out a lot differently if he had been treated differently at Old Trafford whilst a Manchester United player.
Pique was signed as a youngster and Sir Alex Ferguson always seems reluctant to give youngsters an extended run in the first team, even when they’re looking promising, unless injuries force his hand. This, along with not wishing to wait for players to mature, resulted in him being non-plussed about selling both Pique and a young Giuseppe Rossi despite the wealth of talent they both possessed. Pique, like Cesc Fabregas of Arsenal, may have always had a desire to return to his boyhood team but I feel that United could have kept hold of him had he been treated differently.
When you have a top young talent you don’t want them getting to the last year of their contract in case they’re courted by another team who get them to agree to leave on a free at the end of the year. Ferguson allowed Pique’s contract to get to his last year and the centre back announced that he was returning to Barca either at the end of his contract or at that time so United were forced to agree a fee with Barca to avoid losing him on a free transfer. Had United planned in advance and had Pique on a longer contract they would not have been forced to sell him.
Also, giving the defender more playing time would surely have made him more willing to stay – Pique could never break into the United first team properly and was restricted to the odd appearances here and there. When Barca signed him they immediately put him into their first team and reaped the profits. Given first team football and a longer contract to keep him happy, Pique could currently be dealing with United’s defensive problems, easily replacing Nemanja Vidic or Rio Ferdinand – which would be doubly comforting for United fans given how the former is heavily linked with a move away from the club in the near future.
Instead United now struggle with just Jonny Evans for comfort whilst Pique excels for Barcelona and the club know they have a legend in the making at the Camp Nou. Questions over Pique’s loyalty to the club can’t be asked with the Catalunyan defender professing
“My desire is not to go anywhere else, I want to retire at the Camp Nou.”
Pique’s case is one of the many cases in recent years of the Premier League losing a top player to the Liga BBVA and this shift in talent moving can only lead to the Liga BBVA being considered the best league in the world. United would love a top defender like Pique to ease their problems this season, due to mismanagement though he instead stars for Barca who are never going to let him get remotely unsettled. Like fellow homegrown players Xavi, Puyol and Andres Iniesta, it looks like Pique will be a Barca legend and will have a fine career with his hometown club.