x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Pep Guardiola right to be piqued by lifestyle of Gerard Pique

The Barcelona central defender's activities off the pitch are hindering his game on the field - a fact that is worrying his manager.

Gerard Pique, right, has not been at his best on the football pitch lately.
Gerard Pique, right, has not been at his best on the football pitch lately.

Flashlights exploded and television cameras filmed as Gerard Pique posed on a stage, 12 hours after playing against Valencia.

The handsome Catalan is the face of a new line of clothing and questions were invited. Fashion journalists asked him if he is going to marry the singer Shakira; football writers took a harder line on his lifestyle and relationship with Pep Guardiola, his coach at Barcelona.

Pique, that rare breed of footballer from an upper middle class background, is intelligent and batted away the toughest questions with confidence and the occasional sigh as he moaned about protecting his privacy.

The central defender claims that everything is fine between him and his master. But it is not.

Pique's lifestyle causes concern. He barely drinks and does not touch drugs, but he is a regular on the nightclub circuit and is the face of a multitude of brands.

Guardiola rightly thinks Pique is distracted, his life too full. Football, he rightly insists in private, should be his absolute priority.

Pique was dreadful in Barca's last away league game, a defeat at Osasuna. Days later, when a bus destroyed Pique's car door, he claimed it was an accident.

Maybe it was, but to Guardiola it was yet more evidence that his focus was elsewhere and Pique was dropped for the Champions League victory in Leverkusen last week, something his manager described as a "technical decision".

Guardiola values Pique immensely, but he is right to be concerned about his star defender.