After a midweek Champions League game against Lyon, Barcelona return to La Liga duty hoping to continue their dominant form thus far. Real Madrid’s surprising defeat at the hands of minnows Girona on Sunday meant that Barcelona’s lead at the top has increased to seven points. While Lionel Messi will always be surrounded by the media headlines, one player has almost flown under the radar… Gerard Pique, our defensive stalwart.
After losing Samuel Umtiti for such a large part of the season, Gerard Pique has been the defensive rock that Barcelona have needed. After dispelling some early season notions that he had reached his peak, Pique again has found the form that made him regarded by many as one of the best central defenders in the world. After another long year with Barcelona and a gruelling World Cup, it seems that the Spanish defender just needed a couple of weeks to catch his breath.
In addition to raising his own game in the absence of the young Frenchman Umtiti, Pique has demonstrated a quality that is reserved for the greats – making those around him better as well. Clement Lenglet finally looks like the center-back Barcelona spent so much money on, Nelson Semedo and Sergi Robert have become interchangeable at right back, and Jordi Alba is flanking forward more than ever. Of course, Pique isn’t doing everything by himself, but his stability in the back has allowed the rest of the defence to regain its composure following a shaky start to the season.
Recent headlines have seen Barcelona’s winter transfer dealings, Coutinho, and an over reliance on Messi all talked about, but not as much about Pique and his massive importance to this side. Bar Messi, Pique has arguably become Barcelona’s second most important player given his quality in playing from the back, calmness in large-scale games, as well as his tactical knowledge of the Barcelona system. In Barcelona’s continued march for a treble, Pique brings stability to the back line, something that will only be aided by Umtiti’s eventual return (hopefully soon).
For all the noise that has surrounded Barcelona’s current squad, Pique’s resurgence has fallen out of the spotlight, something unfair to the great Barcelona center back. If Barcelona’s season ends with three trophies, I can guarantee that Pique will have played some of his best football towards the end of the campaign. If we end with only one, no doubt Pique will have a part to play in that as well.