Barcelona: Is the Form of Gerard Pique Behind the Club's Renaissance?

Jason Pettigrove@@jaypetti1971Contributor IFebruary 10, 2015

Gerard Pique has been an important cog in the Barca wheel.
Gerard Pique has been an important cog in the Barca wheel.Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Gerard Pique has certainly had to deal with a fair amount of criticism from all sides this season for some truly under-par performances.

In the early stages of the campaign, perhaps as a result of a poor World Cup and lack of appropriate rest and recuperation, we saw a shadow of the player Pique had been for Barcelona over the last few seasons.

Being caught looking disinterested while on the substitutes' bench didn't aid his cause of returning to his rightful place at the heart of Barca's defence.

Pique looked extremely uncomfortable on the bench vs. Levante.
Pique looked extremely uncomfortable on the bench vs. Levante.Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

The outcry from the footage and published pictures no doubt contributed to an extended spell on the sidelines and while everyone will have a view on Luis Enrique's actions, you'd be hard pressed to argue against them being entirely correct.

And in any event, they would appear to have had the desired effect.

For the first time in a long time, we are beginning to see the Gerard Pique of old. The consummate modern-day centre-back. Confident, cool under pressure and a cut above the competition.

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Yes, there is still the odd mistake but surely they can be forgiven if he continues to provide performances of the highest quality, as now.

Without labouring the point, Squawka note that, presently, Pique is the highest rated in the team for successful defensive actions. detail that his pass accuracy is now better than it was in what is generally accepted as Barca's two best-ever seasons of 2008/09 and 2010/11.

There was a time in the not too distant past when the notion of Pique leaving was being given serious consideration.

Jeremy Cross of the Daily Star quoted a Manchester United source as saying:

The manager knows he still needs to strengthen his defence and he would love to sign Pique.

He is a former United player so he knows the club and Pique is a player he can build his defence around. Signing him from Barcelona won't be easy though.

Fortunately for fans of the Blaugrana, the January transfer window passed without incident and just a couple of weeks after its conclusion Pique is proving exactly why Barca should never have countenanced a sale in the first place.

To put his performances into further context, when placed against his team-mates, only Lionel Messi and Neymar have fared better across the course of the season, according to Squawka.

Pique has contributed at both ends of the pitch this season.
Pique has contributed at both ends of the pitch this season.David Ramos/Getty Images

If it's said that any successful footballing outfit is built on a solid defence, then as Barca begin to reel in Real Madrid at the summit, we must pay appropriate homage to Pique and his defensive colleagues.

Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez will almost always take the plaudits. A hundred-plus goals for the Blaugrana for the seventh season running dictates the same.

Yet, without defensive stability, Barca are as vulnerable as just about anyone else. Only Bayern Munich and Juventus have conceded less goals in the top European leagues, which speaks volumes.

If the Catalans find that their current good form translates into a trophy-laden campaign, then Gerard Pique can hold his head high knowing that he once again played an integral part in the team's success.