Neymar is gone, but Piqué says happiness can return to Barcelona
Neymar's exit was heard around the world.
When the Brazilian football star left FC Barcelona earlier this month, there was a outpouring of emotions from Barcelona fans and players that ranged from shock to anger to sadness.
Gerard Piqué was also sad to see his teammate go--but there was one silver lining. Now that Neymar has traded Catalonia for Paris, Piqué confidently states that he is the best poker player on the team.
"Me!" Piqué boldly declared when asked to name the poker player with the most skills left at Camp Nou.
The centre-back, who has made close to 250 appearances for Barcelona since signing from Manchester United in 2008, says Alex Vidal and Paco Alcacer are good at poker too, but Piqué is the only one with major tournament cashes to his name. He has two third-place finishes in side events on the European Poker Tour here in Barcelona, as well as a 19th-place finish in the 2014 High Roller event.
He is here once again for the PokerStars Championship, playing in both €25,000 buy-in single-day tournaments on the schedule. The first didn't go so well, but at time of writing, he still has chips in the second.
Piqué adds that there's still a love for poker among the players of FC Barcelona, but that Neymar's transfer to Paris St Germain has curtailed the action somewhat.
"A lot of us used to play with Neymar," Piqué said. "But now that he's gone we don't play as much."
Neymar's €222 million transfer to PSG was the most expensive in history, topping off an expensive summer of transfers. Romelu Lukaku left Everton for Manchester United for €85 million and Chelsea paid €80 million to bring Alvaro Morata over from Real Madrid.
The transfer market has never been so buoyant, but how much does Piqué think Piqué is worth? It was a good attempt to get him to offer a headline-grabbing figure, but he wasn't falling for that.
"I don't know," he said, giving a Neymar-esque hip-swerve. "It depends on a lot of things like when your contracts up, how old you are and how valuable you are to your club. I really couldn't tell you a price right now."
But what about buy-ins? How many Super High Roller buy-ins would it cost PokerStars to get a Piqué of their own. He wasn't falling for that either.
"That's a really hard question," the 30-year-old said. "I really don't know."
Let's ballpark an estimate: a lot. With more football awards and accolades than some countries, Piqué is such a catch that sometimes he can barely afford himself in fantasy sports.
"I've played some fantasy sports with friends," Piqué said. "I always pick players from the Spanish League and most of them are from my team, Barca. I try to get myself but sometimes I can't afford to draft myself."
While Piqué doesn't play fantasy sports for money, he did plunk down €25,000 (or 0.0001 Neymars) to play in the tournament today. While he wouldn't mind a cash, Piqué says his main objective is to have fun.
"Every time I come here I have a great time," Piqué said. "It's a completely different experience because you're off the playing field, but you're still competing and that's new to me."
The location is also convenient. Piqué is able to come down straight from his house, head back and be ready for practice without missing a beat. This has become even more important since Piqué has had less free time now that he has children.
Piqué says he is happy to see the city grow as a poker hotspot and hopes he can help push the city he loves past its current hardship.
"These are still tough times," Piqué said, referencing the terrorist attack in Barcelona last Thursday. "The city took a big hit, but with time I know we're going to get back and make sure that happiness comes back to Barcelona."