Barcelona and all-world star center-back Gerard Piqué gave a long and great interview to UEFA's official website to talk about his relationship with his lifelong club, the relationship between the club's biggest stars, Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar Jr., and more:
UEFA.com: Gerard, you've been a member of the club since you were born. Do you remember the moment you started loving FC Barcelona?
Gerard Piqué: I don't think it's a moment, it's a process. You go to the stadium to watch matches with your family; your dad or grandad take you to games every weekend and slowly you start falling in love with the club and its history. Then, when I was seven or eight and started playing for the youth team, that's when the Barça colours began to really mean something special to me.
UEFA.com: What do you remember from when you were young and you'd stay up in the evenings watching European games?
Piqué: I have a vivid memory of when I was five and we won our first European Cup at Wembley against Sampdoria. I remember being at my grandparents' place in Barcelona when Koeman scored in extra time. That's a key part of the history of the club.
The club have always played well but we haven't been winning trophies for all that long. We only began winning important trophies around 20 or 25 years ago. I am lucky to have witnessed the whole process, because it all began about the time I was born.
UEFA.com: Let's talk about the club anthem. What's it like to listen to the Barcelona song before a match?
Piqué: When you're a child the anthem means a lot because you associate it with the moment you arrive at the stadium and hear it being played – and going to see Barça play is what you look forward to all week. Then maybe its importance fades a bit because you're so used to it, until your children are born and you start singing it to them. [My son] Milan asks me to sing him the Barça anthem before he goes to bed. It's a family tradition.
UEFA.com: What is the difference then to a UEFA Champions League match, with everything surrounding it and listening to that anthem?
Piqué: The Champions League anthem makes a huge difference. Then there's the branding in the stadium and normally a bigger crowd. The lights even seem to shine brighter. It's the whole thing, every single detail. The publicity, the ball, the stars ... It really makes for a special atmosphere.
UEFA.com: As opponents have become more and more adept at defending against the passing carousel, have Barcelona evolved their style to be more varied, more direct at times?
Piqué: I think the style is the same as ever. It has been here for many years, ever since Johan Cruyff came to the Camp Nou [in 1988]: we have to have the ball, dictate possession, control games and create a lot of chances. I've never seen a Barça team that haven't controlled a game and had a lot of possession. I've never seen that because we've maintained our style.
UEFA.com: There have been some very promising signs of compatibility between Messi, Neymar and Suárez. What potential does that strike partnership have?
Piqué: I've never before seen a relationship like the one between Luis [Suárez], Ney [Neymar] and Leo [Messi]. We're talking about three of the best players in the world. Being a footballer always goes hand in hand with a certain amount of egotism, but those three really do have a special relationship. They get on superbly. There's no hint of jealousy and that shows on the pitch.
UEFA.com: Luis Enrique is Barcelona's fourth coach in four seasons. What new ideas has he brought? How are the style and tactics different from Josep Guardiola, Tito Vilanova or Gerardo Martino?
Piqué: Every coach is different. Tito, Tata, Pep and now Luis have all sought to stamp their own mark while staying true to the style we've been talking about. Barça's style is non-negotiable. Luis likes us to press high up the pitch and to mount fast counterattacks, taking advantage of our pace up front.
UEFA.com: How difficult is it to maintain motivation and keep that fire burning within?
Piqué: During the course of your career you always have times when it's easy to find motivation and others when it's harder. When you're in the Champions League quarter-finals or semis, or you're vying for the Liga title, players always relish those games. There are other games that are harder to get up for, but that comes with the territory.