With Carles Puyol out injured for much of the past season, Gerard Pique has taken on extra responsibility of late, assuming the role of defensive leader for both Barcelona and the Spanish national team.

 

Strong, intelligent and technically gifted, Pique has, over the years, earned the nickname Piquenbauer in honour of legendary German sweeper "Kaiser" Franz Beckenbauer. His powerful physique and strong aerial ability means he is both a commanding defensive presence and a real threat in the opposition's penalty area. And while clearly a danger from set-pieces, Pique is also known for his ability to bring the ball out of defence and use his skill and vision to join attacks.

 

After spending most of his youth career at Barcelona, Pique moved to England at 17 and joined Manchester United, where he continued to develop and gained his first taste of European football. He then spent 2006/07 on loan at Real Zaragoza, before returning to his native Catalonia to rejoin Barça. In his maiden season he won every club honour available, and also earned his first senior cap for Spain.

 

Pique has represented Spain at all levels, and was part of the side that won the UEFA European U-19 Championship in 2006. Vicente del Bosque gave him his first senior outing for La Roja in a friendly against England in February 2009. And in his next game, a 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifier against Turkey, he not only made the starting line-up, but also scored his team’s winning goal.

 

Since then he has become a cornerstone of the Spanish defence, having helped La Roja win both the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the UEFA EURO 2012.