These weeks he has realized what it means not to play, not to compete. Something new for Gerard Piqué (34 years old), who during his career had only had a serious hip injury and barely missed games because he was caught with the holidays in between. But these weeks have been a martyrdom for the central defender, desperate for the levels of pain he suffered, also because at the beginning of the week he was not seen on the La Cartuja lawn. But Piqué played. Among other things because as Griezmann said in his day, there is no one in the team who shouts. “He, Busquets, Messi and Alba help us on and off the field,” Mingueza told EL PAÍS. Necessary, also, due to their experience in a team where many debuted in a cup final such as Dest, Mingueza, De Jong, Griezmann, Pedri … going out and that in times of difficulty they have given the face of the team, “summarized Piqué from the grass, after being bathed in champagne by Busquets.
Koeman doubted during the week which system to use, if the school’s everlasting 4-3-3 cruyffista installed in the Barça DNA or the 3-5-2 that has given him such a good result until he ran into Madrid. He opted for three centrals, the best of the news for a Piqué who could not make too many efforts, even though in the field he did not show signs of weakness, perhaps in some support. With two players by his side, he didn’t have to put in so much effort or cover so much ground, happy to reduce the sprints and for being the boss of the line again, the voice that ordered the team. Also in starting the ball. But that was already said by Tito Vilanova, then second to Guardiola, in 2008: “Without Piqué we would drop our invention.” At that time, nothing was injured or fell, a team that achieved the first sextet of history. This time, however, he did go through the infirmary.
In November, in the duel against Atlético, he suffered a sprain to the internal lateral ligament of his right knee and a partial injury to the anterior cruciate ligament. After evaluating the options, he decided to do a conservative treatment instead of undergoing surgery. And it seemed to be the hand of a saint because it shortened the recovery times very quickly, perhaps too much. More than anything because they did not want to lose the European tie against PSG and already in the first leg they relapsed.
Since that day, the pain has not given Piqué any respite, as a pass of more than five meters was an odyssey [durante el partido solo hizo un desplazamiento en largo]. He was so concerned that he asked for various opinions – always with the consent of the club and with the answer that it is a matter of time – and to play against Athletic he had to infiltrate for the fifth time. The fourth was to try to reach the classic, finally discarded but cited so that the rival did not know who would be in front of him.
“Piqué was called up but he arrived just for Madrid, only with three training sessions,” said Koeman, who has always shown his support. But he did see a yellow card for protesting, for going down to the field at the end of the match in his role as leader and one of the captains. And against Athletic he did tie his boots. And it was clear to him, as revealed by a conversation with Jordi Alba captured on television after falling into the classic. “We will win the Cup for sure,” he predicted while the side showed his misgivings.
It happened that Griezmann put the tie to a center of De Jong and the Dutchman did the same to one of Alba. And Messi put the icing on the cake with two more goals to become the top scorer in the history of the Cup finals, now with nine (one more than the legendary Zarra). In the rival area, Piqué celebrated the win, that his defense did not concede any goal and the demonstration that, for the moment, he maintains the invention. When they replaced him, the hug with Koeman between laughter and complicity, with 10 minutes to go and with the duel closed, made it more than clear. “Maybe it is not the most important competition, but these small victories mean a lot”, closed the 3.