Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has admitted the club has been in gradual decline ever since winning the treble for the second time in 2014/15, revealing that certain decisions made by those in charge have not sat well with him.
Even after the highs of 2015, still the club’s most recent Champions League triumph, Barça continued to win domestic trophies. But the 2019/20 campaign saw the ongoing slump turn into a dramatic unravelling. A less than vintage Real Madrid side won the Spanish title, while an 8-2 annihilation at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League left the club reeling.
Ernesto Valverde had been sacked midway through the season when Barça were top of La Liga, while there was controversy over a third party company the club was in partnership with being behind social media accounts attempting to discredit players like Pique and Lionel Messi.
Messi expressed disappointment over the way the club handled and publicly presented negotiations with players over pay cuts during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, eventually requesting to leave Camp Nou, only for Barça to block his attempt.
President Josep Maria Bartomeu, whose time in office has largely coincided with the period of decline, now faces a vote of no confidence from club members - if COVID-19 circumstances allow it.
Speaking to La Vanguardia, Pique said: “We touched the sky with the 2015 treble and from then on the club has been falling instead of growing.
“We hit bottom with the 8-2 [against Bayern] and we all had to reset to see what was best for the club. From humility, rowing and being clear that nobody is indispensable.”
Pique questioned the decision to sack Valverde, who was then replaced by Quique Setien.
“To me, after winning two league titles and being leaders, firing the coach in the middle of the season, as a project, does not seem coherent to me. I did not see it as logical,” he explained.
The 33-year-old insists he does not wish to have a bad relationship with anyone, but ‘there have been times’ when he’s been more than a little frustrated with Bartomeu.
“The social networks. As a Barça player, I see that my club has spent money, money they now want back from us, to criticise, not only external people with a historical relationship with the club, but also active players, and that is outrageous,” Pique said.
“I asked him for an explanation and what he told me was, ‘Gerard, I didn't know’, and I believed him. Then you see that, in future, the person [Jaume Mansferer) in charge of hiring those services is still working at the club.
“That hurts a lot. I say it here because I personally told the president before. And what do you want me to say? It is painful? Yes. Can I do something else? Well, no. My relationship with the president may be cordial but there are things that remain.”
Pique also appears to be expecting a future without Bartomeu at the helm soon, whether it be as a result of the upcoming vote or next year’s presidential elections. He admitted he even suggested to Messi that he should reconsider leaving because there would be a new hierarchy in place soon.
“I didn't have much contact with him those days [over summer] because I thought it was a very personal decision. I remember one [message], ‘Leo, it's a year, and then new people come’.”