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Whether it was becoming a father or simply realising that a potentially wonderful career was somewhat stalling, Gerard Pique’s return to form has been most welcome for both him and Barcelona. After all the success following his return to Barca, it seemed that a lack of concentration and complacency had crept all too easily into his game and as a result his performances had deteriorated to an alarming level.
It seems strange when you consider that at 28, Pique has won everything the game has to offer. For both club and country, he has won every possible trophy and what many wondered was whether he could maintain the desire to play at the highest level after all this success. After the hugely dominant Guardiola era, it was thought that Pique would command the Barcelona defence for the next decade and a half such was his stature in the game at that time.
However, once the combative Carles Puyol’s body started to let him down on a regular basis Pique was left as the leader, a role he was yet to attain. Playing for club and country he was alongside his captain Puyol and if he wasn’t there he would be partnered by Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos. At a young age, he needed talking through games and being instructed where to position himself in relation to his team mate. In Puyol, he had the perfect foil for his youthful exuberance and as the partnership blossomed so did both of their performances.
For many young players though it is the extra responsibility they must take on for the team that will shape their formative years. Some struggle with the extra burden of leading a defence or captaining for instance whilst others accept the role at ease. It seemed that without his great friend, he struggled with organising his team mates around him and seemed to have problems concentrating during matches.
It is well known that Pique has a high profile relationship with Shakira and since adjusting to having children, his form on the pitch has steadily improved. Having set such high standards for himself as a young player, the level he should be playing at is higher than with others. During the recent el Clasico, he showed on many occasions that he was once again the cornerstone of that defence and that for Madrid to score they had to pass him.
His performance in the game was reminiscent of his old centre back partner’s in the determination and organisational play. The skill and poise that Pique possesses has always separated him from too many comparisons between him and Puyol, but the similarities in that performance were there for all to see.
For the last couple of seasons, he has not been the commanding presence that an already inconsistent defence needs from their best player. This season has been different though and despite Neymar, Messi and Suarez grabbing most of the headlines it has been an improved defensive unit that has provided them with the platform to challenge for trophies in April.
The step from being a promising young player to world class can often be hurdle too high for some players. Pique has the ability to achieve whatever he still hungers for in the game and his mentality will be key to whether or not he achieves it. Following somewhat of a personal plateau in performance over the last season or so, it is great to see him playing at the level he is capable of once again.
It has been instrumental to Barcelona’s season so far and his form over the next decisive month will have a huge bearing on their next six weeks.
Written by Andy Hunter
Follow Andy on Twitter @hunter67980
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