The defender is trying to persuade the Brazilian to stay at Camp Nou and also took a lead in talks with the club’s shirt sponsor Rakuten last year
Gerard Pique for president! That was the call from many Barcelona fans after the centre-back posted a picture on social media on Sunday claiming Neymar would stay at the Catalan club. And even if the Brazilian does decide to leave, the defender is clearly primed for the top job at Camp Nou when he has retired.
When senior figures at Barca have kept quiet, it is Pique who has come out to complain about what he believes to be unfair treatment from referees; when club chief Josep Maria Bartomeu was struggling to find a shirt sponsor last year, it was the defender who initiated contact with Rakuten to set up a deal; and with Neymar close to a move to Paris Saint-Germain, it was the 30-year-old who organised a meeting with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and the Brazilian to talk their team-mate round.
Pique also looked to have drawn a line under the matter altogether when he posted a picture with the forward on Twitter and Instagram with a caption that read: “He stays”. Later, he admitted it had been more “intuition” than the revelation of a definitive decision on the Brazilian’s part. But he has still seemingly done more than Bartomeu and the rest of the Barca board to keep Neymar at the club.
In an interview with Japanese magazine Soccer King this week, Pique was asked about the future and he said: “I’m not cut out to be a coach. I want to be president of Barcelona – that’s my dream.”
And he is clearly preparing himself for that role already – even with several years left as a player. “Pique has the qualities to be a great president,” former club chief Joan Laporta said last year. “I would vote for him.”
Hugely popular with Barcelona’s fans, Pique is something of an unofficial spokesman for the Blaugrana these days, as well as a leader on and off the pitch. Away from football, he has also shown a keen interest in politics as an active supporter of Catalunya and the right for a vote on independence from Spain, while he has accompanied his partner Shakira in her role as goodwill ambassador for Unicef.
Back at Barca, he is seen as one of the most intelligent players at the club and he has defended the club’s interests while the board have often remained silent.
Bartomeu gave an interview to the The New York Times this week as part of the club’s International Champions Cup campaign in the United States, but the president did little to inspire confidence that Neymar would stay. “It’s the players that decide their future. And if they want to leave or not, they can decide.”
That represented a significant shift in the club’s posture after sporting vice-president Jordi Mestre initially said that “Neymar will stay 200 per cent” and it is another indication of the often chaotic situation at boardroom level at Barca these days.
During his last two years as Barca boss, Pep Guardiola became tired of a lack of support from the club’s directors and ultimately that played a part in his decision to leave and take a sabbatical in 2012.
Like Guardiola back then (with Sandro Rosell as club chief), it is now Pique who is operating as de facto president these days and the defender’s active role in trying to ensure Neymar stays at the club may yet prove successful after Bartomeu made little progress in a cold meeting with the Brazilian in New Jersey to discuss the transfer talk.
Pique, who is also calling for technology to be introduced and improved in football in order to take some of the pressure off referees, is a Barcelona president in waiting and it is something the players have discussed already.
Asked in a radio interview if he saw himself as Barca coach with Pique as president, Xavi said last year: “That’s Pique’s plan.” He is already working on it and, with elections set for 2021, the timing may just be right.