Gerard Piqué at Jot Down
Gerard Piqué was recently interviewed by Jot Down magazine (the favorite of Xabi Alonso), and the result was quite interesting. Here is the translation (I’ve left out the parts where he speaks about his club, so if you’re interested in them, you can read the original interview).
Gerard Piqué says, “I’m always optimist, positive. Shaki, on the other hand, sometimes believes that since we’re so happy, something bad is going to happen. I simply don’t see it in that way.” He’s a bit worried about his mother, since she has been experiencing back pains recently. He’s very close to his family. He has the same friends as he did when he was a kid, and he goes on a trip with them once a year. He pays, since he can. He likes to tell the story about how his grandmother Lina had no idea who Shakira was when he introduced her. He laughs loudly, with his mouth wide open. He fiddles with his hair and he readjusts it when photos are taken. He uses that weary tone footballers have when they’re asked about something that bores them and he tries to put on the autopilot, he conceals what he has to and he measures his words, although he appears to be relaxed. He does what he wants and says what he wants. For the moment, it has worked for him. He’s Gerard Piqué. A happy guy.
Do you always get what you want?
Right now, yes.
You achieved your childhood dream, you’re a millionaire, you have a partner who has been more successful in her profession than even you, and you had a child when you wanted to have one. You appear to have it all, no?
I don’t know if I have everything; I never thought of it in this way. I know that I’m happy, that I’ve always been privileged, that I’ve always gotten what I wanted, but it’s also because I’ve worked for it. I know that at this point in my life I can say I’m happy and that’s good enough for me.
Buying you a gift must be difficult. What do you give someone who appears to have it all?
I’m not fussy, and gifts aren’t always about how much they cost. It’s the gesture that counts. For example, a while back, my parents framed all the medals that I had won, from the Eurocopa, the World Cup… it made me very happy. I’m going to put it in my office.
What keeps your feet on the ground?
My parents. I always remember them working hard. They have worked hard to get to where they are and for me they’re an example.
Was not having them there the most difficult part about moving to Manchester when you were 17?
Without a doubt. It was tough, especially the first six months. And my English wasn’t so good either. I had spent one month during two summers studying English in Ireland, and another month in Canada. I also took English classes in school, but my level wasn’t good enough to feel comfortable before I arrived. I could only get by. If you can’t speak a language, there is no way to feel comfortable.
In Manchester, you lived a year with a family, Linda and Tony.
I couldn’t live alone until I turned 18. It was very strange going from my home in Barcelona with my family and friends to Manchester where everything was strange because it was new. Linda and Tony were wonderful, but the customs, the culture… what did I know? It was all different and I was just a kid. They had dinner at six! I remember that they prepared a lemon pie on the first day to welcome me. I don’t like desserts or sweets, and I nearly threw up because I made the effort to eat it to make a good impression. But in the end, you adjust, and I have the feeling that I matured in Manchester. I left as a kid and I returned as a man. That’s the feeling I get whenever I think about that time, of having grown up.
With that English level, how were you able to understand Ferguson? I imagine it wasn’t easy, given his Scottish accent.
I had a bad time of it. You need to have a certain level of English to interact with the English, and a much more advanced one to interact with Sir Alex. He has a very thick accent and he speaks very quickly, so it was extremely complicated. In the beginning, I got lost during his talks.
Days before signing with United, you had dinner with Ferguson, and he convinced your parents. Did you have an interpreter then?
Arturo Canales, my agent from the time I was a kid, was there, and his English is very good. What I remember about the dinner was how great Sir Alex is. I was a very raw prospect, and I’m sure there were millions of others like me, but he bothered to have dinner with us. I was able to get to know the other side of Sir Alex. I’m lucky. And he also made the effort to speak slowly. For him, that was a big effort.
What level of studies do you have? When did you stop?
I did the first year of the Baccalaureate, when I was 16 or 17, and when I finished, I went to England, where I only took English language courses so that I could adapt as quickly as possible.
Is there anything you regret in terms of your studies?
When I look back, I think that I didn’t do poorly, and so I don’t regret anything. I’m not saying that studying is not important. I’m referring to the fact that in life, you should make sacrifices for what you want. I don’t know how to explain it… it’s about making an effort. I don’t know if right now I would still remember what I learned as a kid. I have friends with university degrees who tell me that they don’t believe they’ll have much use for what they studied. I was disciplined, I knew what I wanted and I aimed for that. I don’t worry about not doing the second year of the Baccalaureate or university, it’s not something that I beat myself up about. I then studied business economics at ESADE, since I was interested in that and it was practical.
Are you still in touch with Ferguson?
Yes. We speak once in a while; he just called me a while back. He’s a legend. He was at United for 30 years and until you get to know him, you don’t understand how he could have been there all that time. He was much more than a coach. He was the godfather, the father of the family and he built everything from that point. There wasn’t anything that he wasn’t in control of.
For his experience, do you view it as impossible for Spain to have a Ferguson?
Because of the culture. It’s what happens in the stadiums. When the teams aren’t playing well, the fans still support them, and it’s rare for the stadiums not to fill up. They view, excuse me, live football in a different way. For them, it’s entertainment. Football is a pleasure, they spend two hours watching a show, a performance, and they enjoy it. In Spain, it’s different. The fans suffer more, and they also express their displeasure. Another example is Wenger, who hasn’t won a trophy in years. Here, that’s unthinkable. It’s an issue of culture, and also the lack of patience.
You’ve always had good things to say about Cristiano Ronaldo, who was your teammate at Manchester United. Have you spoken with him recently? Do you have his number?
No, I’ve changed my number several times, and I’m sure he has as well. I’ve always spoken well of Cristiano because I like him. People draw conclusions based on his gestures or comments, without getting to know him. And I also have to say that he’s changed a bit recently, from what I’ve seen, but I really like him and he helped me a lot when I joined United.
In the debate about who is the best, Cristiano or Messi, your answer is Messi. Why? Back up your argument with football reasons.
Uff… they’re more perceptions than reasons. Each one has his qualities. Cristiano is the perfect machine, a born worker who always wants to improve. He can shoot at you with his right foot, his left foot, free kicks, penalties, with his head. He would be the perfect player. He’s also very demanding with himself. In United he was already like that, he was a player who wanted to take over the world. The most surprising thing about him, and what I appreciate the most, is that at the age of 28, after Leo had won four Ballon d’Or trophies and relegated him for a time, he had the ability to resist. I’m happy he won the Ballon d’Or. He deserves it for his career, but Leo is different, he’s a born talent. Perhaps he’s neither as obsessive nor as hard working as Cristiano, but when he gets the ball, it’s like the rest of us have stopped, like we’re being filmed with a slow motion camera. You see him coming, but there’s no way to take the ball from him. He’s a genius. And the definition he has… he’s by far the best player in the world inside the area. He’s a born 9 in that sense. He shoots and it’s unstoppable. And he also has other qualities. He has everything.
Were you surprised by Cristiano’s tears when he received the Ballon d’Or?
No. It may have surprised those who don’t know him, but not me. I also liked it. He has the reputation of being a tough guy, and it was good for him to have this reaction. It really mattered to him, he had suffered. I liked that.
You met Cesc Fàbregas as a kid, and it was thanks to him that you and your family were able to watch Barcelona win the 2006 Champions League final at the Stade de France.
¡Osti! Cesc was playing for Arsenal and he got us tickets. My father watched it with Arsenal fans. I don’t remember where my brother Marc and I were. I think the tickets were from Nike and we were in a neutral site for guests, with everyone nicely dressed and all proper, and there we were. But we had such a good time! I had watched the one Cruyff won on TV, and I was convinced this time that we would win.
What’s going on with your friend, “el de los cuadros” (the one in the checked shirt)?
He just opened up a restaurant on the Diagonal. It’s going well for him, but back then he was traumatized and all (laughs). He was in Ibiza and he didn’t want to return to Barcelona because he thought there would be reporters at the airport or something. I told him to calm down, that it wasn’t such a big deal.
You’ve always controlled what appears in the media with regards to your relationship with Shakira. The first image of you two together was one that you posted to your social network, just like you are doing now with Milan. Why have you chosen to do it like that?
Our child has either the good luck or the bad luck to have the parents he has. We preferred not to have a tons of paparazzi camped out outside our front door, so we posted the images and made them public so that the photographs would lose value and we could live more normally. How much have I been offered for a photo? Don’t ask me. That never interested me.
What music has Shakira introduced you to?
The other day, for example, we went to a Depeche Mode concert. It’s not that I didn’t know them, but there were songs I’ve heard thousands of times that I didn’t know were theirs. Shaki has taught me a lot about music, especially music from the ’80s, such as The Cure or The Cranberries, which she loves.
What is your song of the moment?
Let me look… Radiohead’s “Creep” is my preferred song right now.
Until you met Shakira, you were the famous one in your relationships. Outside of football, there was no reason for you to be recognized. How did you come to terms with this?
It’s true. For example, in the United States, no one recognized me. It’s a matter of adapting. You don’t choose who you fall in love with. With Shaki, everything has always gone well. Despite the difficulties that a relationship like that can have, since she and I both travel a lot, we’ve always done well. I’ve always had the sensation of enjoying it. It’s difficult to walk out of your house and see people and photographers, but you get used to it and you adapt. It’s not pleasant, but I focus on the good things and I don’t think about the rest. In the end, it’s not that serious.
Do you know the exact amount of money you have in the bank?
Yes, more or less. Not the exact amount, but close to it.
So millionaires who don’t have to worry about money also check their balance.
In my case, it’s not about knowing how much I have. It’s because I like to look and control the situation. I also own many companies. The one that I spend the most time on is Golden Manager, which fascinates me. I like to go to the office. We have a staff of 26, including my brother and one of my best childhood friends, Albert Pedret.
Do you have friends who are unemployed?
Yes. And they do what they can. Some get paid under the table.
Do you consider yourself an informed person?
Yes. Of course I like to know what’s going on. The other day, before the game against Málaga, I was talking with Mascherano about the situation in Argentina. We do realize what is going on, although not everyone does because there are some with their own issues. But I do try and stay informed. I don’t usually buy newspapers; I use the Internet.
Poker is one of your hobbies, and you’ve taken part in several tournaments. What is it about poker?
Numbers. It’s mathematics plus competition. There are probabilities, and that excites me, I like it a lot. People have mistaken impressions about poker. It’s not betting, playing Roulette or casino games. It’s a card game. So the people are strange and they wear glasses and hats? Well yes, but the programmers who work for my company are also considered strange to some. They have a gift, their speciality, they live a bit in their own world, but they’re interesting to me.
You didn’t mind people knowing that you played in tournaments. Why?
I’ve always tried to do what I wanted to do and what I liked. It’s complicated because here everyone has an opinion and has no qualms about expressing it, but if I’m convinced that what I do will have no effect on my performance, I’ll do it. I know that there will be people who can’t accept it, who are going to criticize me, but I’m not going to deprive myself of things that won’t hurt me and that I like. We only have one life. I’ll only be 26 once. Then I’ll get older and my kids will grow up and then I won’t have the time, or perhaps the desire.
Are you good?
I’ve placed in the three or four tournaments that I entered, but that doesn’t matter. I just like it. I watch players such as Phil Ivey or Daniel Negreanu, and I even had the luck of meeting Jason Mercier, a very interesting guy. Everyone has their hobbies. I also like sports, especially basketball and handball. It will be strange if Milan doesn’t end up liking sports, although since Shakira always takes him with her to the recording studio, I’m sure music will also be very present in his life. I’m also addicted to several TV series. I’m currently watching the third season of Homeland.
But it’s already over!
Don’t tell me how it ends. I’m also watching Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, The Blacklist. Movies? I want to watch The Wolf of Wall Street, and in the original version. One of the things that Shaki has taught me is the importance of watching movies and series in their original language. I didn’t do that before. We’re one of the few countries that dubs everything, which is why we never learn English. Shaki is obsessed with speaking to Milan in English. He just turned one and we speak to him in three languages: Spanish, Catalan and English.
Would you dare to comment on politics?
It’s impossible to give your opinion on politics, since your words will be used against you. There’s no reason for them to do so, and of course I have my opinions, but you’ll become a scapegoat. I just do my job, which is what I’m paid for. It’s clear that everyone has their opinions and you can’t renounce what you are or what you feel, but we’re in a world where there are opinions that aren’t accepted. It’s one extreme or the other. There are moderates, but they’re in the minority. The majority are along the lines of “think like me or I’ll crush you.”
What a state we’re in.
My work is to play for my club and my national team, nothing more. Sports shouldn’t be mixed with politics. When that happens, it’s because they want to mix them.
Who are they?
Politicians. Sports should be clean. How are they related? In the Spain-Cataluña issue, we’re at a point in which we have to find a solution or there’s no going back. I see people on both sides who are tired of it and there is little confidence in politicians. I don’t think it will be easy, but I hope it can be resolved.
I wish I knew.