Gerard Piqué sat down with UEFA.com to reflect on his early days at La Masia and Manchester United FC, his success with FC Barcelona and Spain, and why "the best is yet to come".
Few players will complete a more successful year than FC Barcelona's Gerard Piqué managed in 2010, as the Liga champions' centre-back consolidated his reputation in Spain's triumphant FIFA World Cup campaign. The 23-year-old told UEFA.com about the highlights of a career that has already encompassed so much.
UEFA.com: You're so young yet have already won almost all there is to win in football. What drives you to win more?
Gerard Piqué: The most important thing is desire. I enjoy what I do and I'm surrounded by fantastic team-mates and the best players in the world in the place I call home. There are still so many things left for me to do in football – I have never competed in, let alone won, a UEFA European Championship with Spain.
UEFA.com: What did you learn from your time at Manchester United and why did you leave for the Premier League at such a young age?
Piqué: That was a marvellous experience that helped me learn and improve year by year. I was very fortunate to be able to combine the values of English football with those I learned at La Masia. England helped in terms developing my abilities. I trained under Sir Alex Ferguson in what were fantastic years, though I admit it was very difficult to adapt to a new life after Barcelona.
I went because I knew it would be an opportunity that would push me on my way. United helped me learn how to compete but I always knew one day I wanted to return to Barça.
UEFA.com: What do you think are the reasons behind Barcelona's success in producing young talent?
Piqué: I believe that a defined style and continuity with the young players coming through the ranks is important. Believing in the work you are doing from the youth teams up to the senior side and always knowing what's at stake – that's important. The values Barcelona offer their young players have helped generate a specific style of play – I think that no other club in the world has this.
UEFA.com: What are your first footballing memories?
Piqué: I remember my grandfather, Amador Bernabéu, giving me my first ball. That stands out, as do the first tournaments I played in alongside team-mates like Cesc Fàbregas when we were involved with the Barcelona youth teams. I used to look up to [former Spain and Real Madrid CF defender] Fernando Hierro as a boy – he was such a great player and a fine leader.
UEFA.com: You train every day with Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta and Lionel Messi. Which of the three do you think will win the FIFA Ballon d'Or?
Piqué: I would say Messi as he's the best player in the world but if I could divide the prize between the three of them I would. As a footballer Messi has everything but Xavi and Iniesta are the best I have seen playing the game with the ball at their feet.
UEFA.com: Watching Barcelona, at times it seems you could all play with your eyes closed. How do you generate that kind of confidence?
Piqué: With work, discipline, determination and having a great coach like Josep Guardiola who urges us never to let our guard down. We approach every day as if we are in competition. In reality there is no great secret – hard work and having a coach who was educated in-house helps a lot.
UEFA.com: Do you believe this Barcelona team are one of the best in history?
Piqué: We're pretty good and we've had a couple of decent seasons. What you can't forget is that in the history of the game there h...