Gerard Pique is one of the most successful footballers of his generation – and many consider him one of the greatest defenders in the history of the sport.
But it wasn’t always so rosy for the Spanish World Cup winner, who has picked up 30 major honours for club and country since joining Barcelona in 2008.
Four years before returning to his homeland, Pique left Barcelona to join Manchester United – spending time in their academy before graduating to the first-team.
He ended up making just 23 appearances for the Red Devils, debuting against Crewe in 2004, but he does boast Premier League and Champions League titles to his name as part of the double-winning side of 2007/08.
Shortly after the 2008 Champions League final Pique signed a four-year contract with Barcelona to return to his boyhood club; and the rest, as they say, is history.
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Given what he has achieved in his remarkable career, selling Pique for just £5million must go down as one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s biggest transfer mistakes.
But just why did Sir Alex opt to axe the young and promising centre-back after a positive loan spell at Real Zaragoza and some impressive showings in the Man United first-team?
Well, it turns out a tough trip to Bolton may have cost Pique a career at Old Trafford.
According to Wayne Rooney, the November 2007 defeat to Gary Megson’s Trotters – courtesy of Nicolas Anelka’s 11th minute goal – convinced Sir Alex that Pique was not up to it.
“Bolton away more or less finished Gerard Pique’s career at United,” wrote Rooney in his Sunday Times column. “He was young and got bullied there and I think that’s when Fergie decided that, physically, he wasn’t right for the Premier League.
“I always remember [Nemanja] Vidic: if we were going to Bolton — and it was the same when he was about to face Didier Drogba — he would be in the gym for two or three days before, pumping himself up.”
Gerard Pique honours
- Premier League (2007/08)
- Community Shield (2007)
- Champions League (2007/08)
- LaLiga (2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2012/13, 2014/15, 2015/16, 2017/18, 2018/19)
- Copa del Rey (2008/09, 2011/12, 2014/15, 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18)
- Supercopa de Espana (2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2016, 2018)
- Champions League (2008/09, 2010/11, 2014/15)
- UEFA Super Cup (2009, 2015)
- Club World Cup (2009, 2011, 2015)
- World Cup (2010)
- European Championship (2012)
Discussing trips to Bolton more generally, Rooney makes it clear he hated it whenever that fixture came up.
“Bolton away was always horrible,” he continued. “It was physical and you knew you had to win the fight to win the game.
“I remember [Patrice] Evra saying about Kevin Davies: ‘I hate this person’. On throw-ins Kevin would go and pin the full back with his elbows all over their face and in challenges when the ball went down the line he would leave his foot in.”