Returning Players: Gerard Piqué

Welcome to the Last Word on Football’s ‘Returning Players’ Series. In this edition, we take a look at defender Gerard Piqué.

The Spaniard came through the famous La Masia academy at Barcelona but left to join Manchester United. However, the centre back didn’t have as big an impact in England as expected and made a return back to his homeland, where he has, so far, played out his entire career.

Returning Players – Gerard Piqué

First Spell at Barcelona

Born in Barcelona, Gerard Piqué began his career in the club’s famous La Masia academy. Despite being one of the most promising students, he decided to join Manchester United’s academy in 2004, ending his seven-year stay at his boyhood club.

Teams Piqué Played for in Between

Manchester United did not pay a fee for Gerard Piqué as he was too young to have a professional contract.

Despite only joining in 2004, he made his Red Devils debut as a 17-year-old in the same year, coming on as a substitute in a 3-0 League Cup win over Crewe Alexandra. His full debut came in January 2005 in a goalless draw with Exeter City in the FA Cup before making his Premier League bow ten months later.

Having impressed in the reserve team, Piqué was offered a new deal that would run until 2009. Despite that, he was loaned out to Real Zaragoza in La Liga and turned out 28 times in all competitions, playing both as a centre back and a defensive midfielder – a position he had played while at La Masia.

Piqué returned to Old Trafford and turned out 13 times in all competitions. His first Manchester United goal came in a 4-0 win Champions League game against Dynamo Kyiv, while his second goal for the Red Devils came against Roma in the same competition.

His final season at Old Trafford was one of success as the Spaniard picked up the Premier League title and Champions League in 2008.

Return to Barcelona

Despite the accomplishments in his final season in England, Piqué returned home after the Red Devils accepted a €5 million offer for the defender. He turned out 28 times in his first season at the Nou Camp and opened his goalscoring account in a 5-2 win away at Sporting in the Champions League. His first domestic goal came against rivals Español in the Copa del Rey, with his header proving to be the winner in a 3-2 victory. He also netted Barca’s sixth goal in a 6-2 win in El Clasico against Real Madrid.

His first season was one of huge success as the defender was part of the first-ever Spanish side to win the treble after Barcelona clinched the Copa del Rey, La Liga and Champions League, with the latter being won against his former club, Manchester United.

The success continued. Piqué won the FIFA Club World Cup seven months after their treble success before he penned a new deal that would see him commit his future until 2015. Barcelona also retained their La Liga title.

The following season, Barcelona secured their second Champions League in three years with victory over Manchester United again while securing a third successive La Liga.

Barcelona ensured another FIFA Club World Cup and Copa del Rey but finished second in La Liga, but were knocked out at the semi-final stage in the Champions League.

Another La Liga success would follow before another unprecedented second treble in 2014/15, winning La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League, with the European final being won against Juventus.

A third FIFA Club World Cup followed before Piqué added three more La Liga titles and three more Copa del Rey successes.

During his time in Spain, Piqué has won eight La Liga titles, six Copa del Rey’s, five Supercopa de España, three Champions League’s, three Super Cups and three Club World Cups. The defender has also won the 2010 World Cup and 2012 European Championship with Spain.

Throughout his Barcelona career, the Piqué has appeared over 40 times in all competitions in all but two of the 13 seasons at the Nou Camp.

He has also played alongside some of the world’s best defenders. His most formidable partnership came in the early stages of his Barca career, lining up alongside Carlos Puyol. The pair played in 136 Barcelona games, losing just eight times. Upon Puyol’s retirement, he has played alongside several other players, including Sergio Busquets, Javier Mascherano and Clément Lenglet.

Now, at the age of 34 and with the club struggling to recapture their previous success, the best may be last him. However, the defender, who had been capped 102 times by Spain, has had an excellent career since his return to his boyhood club. He has scored 49 times from 556 Barca outings.

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