AP NEWS

Pique expresses his anger with Barcelona board

September 30, 2019
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Barcelona's Gerard Pique, left, and Granada's Roberto Soldado fight for the ball during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Barcelona and Granada at the Los Carmenes stadium in Granada, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Miguel Morenatti)
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Barcelona's Gerard Pique, left, and Granada's Roberto Soldado fight for the ball during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Barcelona and Granada at the Los Carmenes stadium in Granada, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Miguel Morenatti)

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has gone on the attack.

He criticized the club hierarchy after Barcelona’s 2-0 weekend win at Getafe in the Spanish league, unhappy with what he saw as an attempt to create a conflict with players.

“We have to all be united, and when I say everyone I mean the fans and the executive board,” Pique said after Saturday’s game. “We know how the club works ... we know who writes some articles even though they don’t sign them with their names.”

He did not elaborate.

Pique appeared to be responding to a recent article in Spanish sports daily Mundo Deportivo that listed all the ways Barcelona’s star players had allegedly earned privileges and even dictated club decisions, including Barcelona’s failed attempt to re-sign Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain.

“We don’t want a fight. We want to go out there and win,” Pique said. “We hope that nobody tries to provoke fights that don’t exist and that we don’t want. We must back the club. If not, we will only hurt each other.”

Lionel Messi has also expressed his doubts as to whether the club had done all it could to bring back Neymar.

Pique is one of Barcelona’s pillars and a fan favorite with 505 appearances over nine seasons, including three Champions League titles and eight league titles. A World Cup winner with Spain, he has said he may consider running for club president at Barcelona after his playing days are over.

The spat comes as Barcelona prepares for its Champions League match against Inter Milan on Wednesday.

SPAIN CALLING?

World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe’s declaration that she could one day play in Spain has not gone unnoticed.

The 34-year-old Rapinoe was awarded FIFA player of the year last week for leading the U.S. women’s national team to the World Cup title in July. Barcelona star Lionel Messi won the men’s award.

Rapinoe, whose six goals earned her the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer, told beIN SPORTS in an interview earlier this month that “maybe at the end of my career, I’ll get over to Spain.”

Rapinoe, who also won the Golden Ball as the tournament’s top player, said: “The way Barcelona plays ... is so beautiful and inspiring. It’s just a joy to watch.”

She also praised Atletico and Real Madrid.

Since then Barcelona club official Maria Teixidor has said: “I believe we would be in position to sign this class of player,” while praising Rapinoe’s leadership on seeking equality for women players.

Barcelona newspaper La Vanguardia ran a story Sunday claiming “Rapinoe dyes herself burgundy and blue” in reference to the club’s colors and the player’s dyed hair. Spanish sports daily AS speculated that Real Madrid, which is building up a women’s team for next season, could try to entice the American star.

Women’s soccer in Spain has made strides. The league has a major energy company as a sponsor, and offers three games a week to broadcast on television. More than 60,000 people packed Atletico’s stadium in March to see the hosts lose 2-0 to Barcelona in what the league said was a world record for an attendance at a women’s club soccer match.

That said, its players are still fighting to get a guaranteed minimum salary for all 16 first-division clubs and to have a collective labor deal to protect their rights.

Rapinoe, who played for French club Lyon for one season before joining the Seattle Reign in 2013, has spoken out about the plight of women players compared with their extremely well-paid male counterparts.

WAITING FOR HAZARD

Eden Hazard has hustled and helped on defense, just like Zinedine Zidane has demanded of his players.

But Real Madrid didn’t break a club transfer record to get a hard worker.

It needed a star to fill the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo, and so far Hazard has yet to come close.

Hazard missed the first three games of the campaign after injuring his left thigh in August. Since his return, he hasn’t scored a goal in four appearances. Nor has he shown the attacking verve, dribbling skills, and precise passes that made him one of the Premier League’s top players while at Chelsea.

Hazard didn’t manage a single shot on goal at Atlético Madrid in Saturday’s Spanish capital derby.

Zidane has asked for patience.

“He is almost there,” Zidane said after the 0-0 draw at Atlético. “We have to support him. He is doing a good job.”

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