Defender Gerard Pique has grown into leader role at Barcelona

The third captain has been an ever-present in defence in La Liga

Piqué salvó el empate del Girona bajo palos | LaLiga

Gerard Pique turned 31 years old on February 2nd. He announced it in his own way: "32! What a great number! Thanks to everyone!"   

Dídac Peyret

@didacpeyret

'Geri,' as he is known in the dressing room, was always an optimist. He lives the passing of years in such a natural way. Not even his success has allowed him to slip into a comfort zone or to become complacent. 

In fact, it's the opposite: he's extended his work load (from FC Andorra to the Davis Cup, passing by The Players' Tribune). Without giving up on his football career: if a few years ago he was thinking of early retirement, that now seems a long way away. 

There's no play, though, more prepared for retirement than him. Pique has other plans: to be the president of Barça. 

That confidence in his possibilities has allowed him to withstand the demands at Barça for so many years. Also his competitive spirit. Because Pique is, above all, a competitor. The better the rival is, the more extreme the situation is, the better his performances. Last season his teammates recognised his qualities as a leader and voted him the team's third captain. 

Pique's played every league game this season, scoring five goals, completing 95 percent of passes and winning 66 percent of individual duels

It's a role which has not stopped him saying what he thinks even if the toll can be high. Now retired from international football and completely focused on Barça, he's been at a formidable level. 

Pique's the constant in the middle of Barça's defence. With Umtiti (his partner in recent years) injured, he's taken strides forward. 

Piqué, siempre protagonista | AFP

PIQUE'S LA LIGA

No one at Barcelona has played more in La Liga than Pique, who's played every single minute of the competition. In total, 2,070 minutes in 23 games. And the sensation is that, along with Jordi Alba, he's one of the key structural pieces in the team. 

The second centre-back with the most minutes in all competitions in Clement Lenglet (2,214, behind Gerard's 2,880). The French defender has consolidated his place in the side as a more positional centre-back than Umtiti. Less aggressive at marking, but solid in the air and capable of starting attacks. 

Barça's defending has not been without problems this season. Pique has often come to the rescue and his numbers are spectacular: 92 percent success rate in passing, five goals and 66 percent of duels won. He's also blocked countless shots and has only picked up four booking in all competitions. No red cards. 

"Everyone at the club and the supporters believe he's having a great season. We have three left-footed centre-backs and he's our only right-footer. He's responding at a really high level in all games," said Valverde before the arrival of Todibo. 

But most surprising for his teammates and his coach is that he seems a cut above the rest. 

"A lot of times they speak about things [Pique does] outside of football, but that, in contrast to others, and I include myself, who could lose focus, does not affect him at all, which is worthy of admiration." 

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