It’s sometimes easy to forget that Gerard Pique used to play for Manchester United.
The World Cup-winning defender is synonymous with Barcelona but spent four years - one of them on loan with Real Zaragoza in La Liga - at Old Trafford.
United will always hold a special place in Pique’s heart - so much so, in fact, that the 29-year-old has admitted he would not join local rivals Manchester City, even though his former boss Pep Guardiola is taking over at the Etihad Stadium this summer.
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“My love for Manchester United is too great for me to sign for City,” Pique explained on Periscope - per the Press Association - at the weekend, “even though Pep is a great coach.
“I’m very happy in Barcelona. United are my second club, but my future is at Barca.”
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Pique is still Barcelona's best defender
Indeed, Pique remains Barcelona’s most important defender - and one of the team’s talismanic figures on and off the pitch.
Since returning to the Camp Nou in 2008, the 6ft 4in centre-back has accumulated an extensive collection of winners’ medals.
Pique has won five La Liga titles, three Copa del Reys, four Spanish Super Cups, three Champions League titles, three UEFA Super Cups and three FIFA Club World Cups - a truly remarkable haul.
Pique has played key role for Barcelona since 2008
While the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta have deservedly received most of the plaudits since 2008, Pique’s influence cannot be understated.
He’s the perfect centre-back for Barcelona’s style of football: calm, composed, tactically disciplined, and technically assured.
Pique is fantastic at bringing the ball out of defence and picking out a teammate with an incisive pass between the lines - and as long as that continues, he’ll remain a Barcelona player.
Man Utd had to let him go
There’s no question that Manchester United would jump at the opportunity to bring Pique back to Old Trafford if the opportunity arises in the near future.
Sir Alex Ferguson wanted the Spain international to stay at Old Trafford eight years ago but knew he could do little to convince him once Barcelona, the club of his heart, came calling.
The situation might have been a little different had Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand not forged such a formidable partnership; Pique knew he stood a better chance of regular first-team football by accepting Pep Guardiola’s offer.
In the end, it proved an inspired decision.
Pique left Old Trafford with Premier League and Champions League winners’ medals and would go on to be involved in the most exciting era in Barcelona’s illustrious history.
Will Gerard Pique spend the rest of his career with Barcelona - or will he return to Manchester United? Have your say by leaving a comment below.
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