BARCELONA — Gerard Pique says he would have walked away from football if Barcelona had not offered him a new contract after signing an extension through until 2022 on Monday.
Pique, who will be 35 when his new terms expire, had moved into the final 18 months of his previous deal at Camp Nou but he was quite clear that there was only one thing he wanted.
“Staying here was always the natural thing,” he said in a news conference in which he reiterated his plan to retire from the Spain international team after this summer’s World Cup. “I never planned for anything else. This has always been my home. Every season we’ve won at least one title. That’s the best thing about my time here, the fact that we’ve always competed for trophies until the very end.
“I hope that it stays the same until I retire. It was Barca or nothing. I don’t want to be anywhere else that isn’t here. I am not motivated to play for another club. I play football to play for Barca. If I was at another team, I would have retired from football.”
Pique will have completed 14 years at Barcelona, not including the years he spent in the academy, by the time his new terms run their course and he said he hopes there will still be time for one more contract, too.
“I hope it won’t be my last [contract],” he added. “To end my career here is something I have always wanted since I came back [from Manchester United] in 2008. I want to enjoy this moment, this day… and this season, which is going well but we have to keep going because there’s a long way to go.”
Thursday’s Copa del Rey semifinal against Valencia is on the horizon, but attention is already turning to Sunday’s Catalan derby against Espanyol.
Speaking after Barca knocked their rivals out of the Copa del Rey last week, Pique repeatedly referred to them as “Espanyol from Cornella.” Espanyol took offence at the tone of the comments, feeling they were mocking the city where they have played their home games since 2009, which is in the metropolitan area of Barcelona, and made a complaint.
However, Pique didn’t back down amid possible charges from the Royal Spanish Football Federation’s [RFEF] Anti-Violence Committe.
“I don’t regret the Espanyol from Cornella comment, but now’s not the time to talk about,” he said. “On Sunday [after the league game at Espanyol] we will go there, I will give you headlines in the mixed zone after the game.”
Pressed on if he could see why people would be offended by his comment, he added: “I’m not saying it to upset people. It’s a fact. Espanyol play in Cornella.”
Pique turns 31 later this week and with Javier Mascherano having left the club for Hebei Fortune, he is expected to replace the Argentine as the club’s fourth captain.
“I have always seen myself as a captain,” he said. “Now I see it differently. I am different in the sense I get involved more with things and make more noise… I understand the dressing room prefers another profile of player [to be captain].
“I try to be an example, but everyone has defects and in some respects I am not an example. I am how I am. I think I have improved in some areas… but I will keep being myself. I don’t have regrets and I don’t hide. It’s clear I have to improve, but that’s a process that never stops for anyone.
“You [the press] give a lot of importance to the captaincy. Everyone has their role in the dressing room and, captain or not, I will keep being who I am. At the end of the day, we’re talking about the fourth captain, which doesn’t have that much importance.”
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.