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Piqué: the kind of guy who could smoke a cigar in a bombing raid

The Barcelona defender and Van Dijk don’t need to do anything special to ensure that all eyes are on them. Being special is enough

Jorge Valdano
Piqué gestures to fans after the Barcelona-Liverpool match.
Piqué gestures to fans after the Barcelona-Liverpool match.Manu Fernandez (AP)

Lights, camera, passion

Messi, like all classics, never ends. Last Wednesday, he put on such a show of domination that everything – the packed Camp Nou, the tremendous game and even soccer itself – looked small compared to him. And that’s despite the fact that it was a game between giants, as dramatic and unpredictable as the Game of Thrones battle we had just seen – the only difference being that soccer is better lit. We were expecting a dominant Barça and a counterattacking Liverpool, but the roles were reversed for long periods of the game. We were expecting a game characterized by nerves and great caution ahead of the second leg, but the two teams were off the leash from the first to the last minute. We expected a game between an extremely competitive team and a man determined to win the Champions League, but no one could have imagined that the man would beat the team. We expected a good match, but in the end it was a magnificent one.

A central question

It was a game between giants, as dramatic and unpredictable as the ‘Game of Thrones’ battle we had just seen – the only difference being that soccer is better lit

Barça and Liverpool pitted two centers against one another who defend like titans and move the ball with a seriousness that you normally only see in children when they play. Personality is not the same as charisma. Personality has the elements that can challenge the pressure that soccer brings with it. Those with charisma bring a spiritual strength to what they do and what they say, causing or easing tensions, creating debates, attracting and repelling. This is the stuff that Piqué and Van Dijk are made of. They don’t need to do anything special to ensure that all eyes are on them. Being special is enough. Last week they played a game where the demands were incredibly high, and at times they suffered and at others they lost their battles. But at all times they managed to maintain the dignity that’s fitting for two defensive stars, the kind of guys who could calmly smoke a cigar in the midst of a bombing raid.

The miracle of the loaves and the passes

Ajax is moving from conquest to conquest (Madrid, Turin, London…) with the ease of a desk jockey completing paperwork. At the first games we began to generalize with our analysis: it was Ajax, a young, cheap and mischievous team. But our admiration saw us start to put a name to each player, and now we are familiar not just with De Ligt and De Jong, but also Tadic, Ziyech, Neres and Van de Beek. All of them have become men in the last three months, shining more and more in each play-off round. While the team has bucked the trend in the sport, reaching the top with a modest budget, the market has now started to correct its forecasts. Now they are Ajax, a young, expensive and mischievous team. All thanks to soccer, that game that can sometimes be a drag and that other times, thanks to the deed and grace of complementary talents, can be a miracle that produces addiction. And money.

A decent goal

Leeds scored a rather unethical goal, letting their opponents knock in an equalizer straight after. The episode was classed as an eccentricity of Bielsa. In reality, what is truly eccentric is the fact that roguery has more prestige than honesty. I celebrated when the score was leveled, because I am always moved by acts of dignity. Soccer is just a fiction, sometimes being exhilarating and sometimes dramatic, but its impact is so great that many people even go so far as to incorporate players’ haircuts into their lifestyles. The time has come that they should incorporate values, too. First question: Didn’t we once praise the VAR system because it brought greater justice? Second: are we only able to ensure justice is served due to the imperative of the rules? The Bielsa incident was meritorious, but not surprising, because all of the episodes in which he has been involved in throughout his life and that have turned him into the “madman” are due to his obsession with ethics. Third question: are we sure that we are the sane ones?

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