Barcelona center-back Gerard Pique has shown off a fresh new look after getting back to work with the club in pre-season training ahead of the new La Liga campaign.
The center-back has posted a selfie on Instagram which shows he has shaved off his beard and had a shorter hair cut. The defender’s one-word caption is pretty telling too. The 34-year-old has simply written, “Younger.” Teammate Riqui Puig was quick to tease the veteran with the comment, “you look like a youth player.”
Pique was one of several first-teamers to start pre-season training on Monday at the Ciutat Esportiva, although Ronald Koeman is without a host of regulars due to Euro 2020 and the Copa America.
The veteran returns to action after missing chunks of last season with a knee problem. The injury meant that Pique only played 23 times in all competitions for the Catalan giants.
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Pique’s Place Under Threat?
Pique will face more challenges next season as competition for places in the Barcelona defense in 2021-22 is set to hot up. Koeman is being tipped to change his system from using three center-backs to a more traditional 4-3-3.
The return of Eric Garcia from Manchester City will also offer Koeman another option in central defense, and it will be interesting to see how the Barcelona boss lines up his team next season.
Pique played whenever fit last season but Garcia will be hoping to force his way into the starting XI. Youngsters Ronald Araujo and Oscar Mingueza will also be keen for regular minutes after impressing last season after breaking into the first team.
Koeman must also decide what to do with Clement Lenglet. The France international has been a regular partner for Pique since joining the club from Sevilla in 2018 but endured a torrid 2020-21 campaign which has placed question marks over his future at the club.
Laporta Takes Pique’s Advice
Yet Pique will still be an influential presence even if he does not play regularly for the Catalan giants. President Joan Laporta has already been seen to be taking the defender’s advice.
According to Diario Sport’s Xavier Ortuño, the defender made it clear that former Josep Maria Bartomeu should have spent more time in the dressing room, and Laporta already seems to be doing just that.
The president was spotted greeting players back for pre-season on Monday and also had a message for the dressing room, as reported by the club’s official website.
He said, “We would like you to be professionals, with a winning mentality and with team spirit. Barça has to compete to win, but obviously always in a sporting way. I wish you all the best for the season.”
There will once again be plenty of expectation surrounding Barcelona heading into the new season after a summer where Messi’s future and the club’s financial problems have dominated the headlines.
Laporta still has plenty of work to do before the campaign kicks off with Messi’s new contract still unsigned and with the club needing to offload players to trim the wage bill to comply with La Liga’s salary cap.