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Words with ... Gerard Piqué

Brazil, a shoo-in? The stud at the center of Spain's Cup-carrying defense has something to say about that

AS Astrapping center back for Spain and Barcelona, 27-year-old Gerard Piqué has already hoisted a host of soccer trophies: World Cup (one), European Championship (one), UEFA Champions League (three) and domestic league (five). He was named to Europe's team of the year in 2010, '11 and '12. And yet when he goes out for a stroll with his girlfriend, he's the less famous of the two. Piqué and his partner, the Colombian pop singer Shakira, have a 17-month-old boy, Milan, and the mother-son duo are certain to be prominent in Spain's fan section in Brazil. SI sat down with Piqué at the office of his Barcelona soccer video-game company—decorated with framed jerseys from the '10 World Cup final next to a piece of the goal net—to talk about Spain's mind-boggling run, celebrity life and ... the Spurs?

At Euro 2008, World Cup '10 and Euro '12, Spain conceded six goals in 19 games, and zero goals in the knockout rounds.

GP: It's incredible, eh?

With so many stars, how do you get everyone to put their egos aside?

GP: It's true that maybe the best player in the world is Lionel Messi; the second one is Cristiano Ronaldo. But we have the third, the fourth, the fifth best—Andrés [Iniesta], Xavi.... We don't have just one [great player] and then the others kind of not-very-good. This is good for the ego.

Tell me about your coach, Vincente del Bosque.

GP: He's won everything—and he is really humble, like a village guy. He is also really calm. We lost the first game at the World Cup 2010. Everyone was like, "Crap. This is s---." He was like, "Easy, easy; we can qualify."

Just about everyone says the host, Brazil, is the favorite to win. Are people forgetting about Spain?

GP: Brazil can be one of the favorites, but I think Spain is another. Brazil is really good, but to play at home has a negative side. It's a lot of pressure; maybe it can affect them. We will see.

Your significant other, Shakira, is also a global superstar—particularly in Brazil. What's that like?

GP: For me, I see a normal guy in love with a normal woman. The problem is when you see it from the outside. People start to think Oh, wow, they are stars. We go to the cinema. We go with friends to have a meal. If you try to not go to the supermarket or to the cinema, you won't enjoy living.

Your son, Milan: How did you decide on the name?

GP: We had three or four names, but Milan was easy to say in English and in Spanish.

Tell me about how you first met your girlfriend.

GP: Before the World Cup in South Africa she was doing "Waka Waka" [the tournament's anthem], and she chose me to do the video. I didn't meet her [then], but I met her once in Madrid, and from then on we started to chat. During the World Cup one of my motivations was that she was singing in the final. I said to my team, "Come on, we have to [make] the final so I get to see her again!" We [made it], and I saw her again.

She's from Colombia. Which team will she support if you play Colombia?

GP: I hope she will choose Spain, but you never know.

What else are you interested in outside of soccer?

GP: I'm trying to start a football-for-babies company, and I'm working on a start-up in the States with friends. Football is my main thing right now, but in football you train for three hours, then you have all day to yourself.

Late at night I'll be looking at Twitter, and Piqué is tweeting about the NBA playoffs ...

GP: ... Because the next day is a day off!

You're a tall guy—6'4". Do you play basketball?

GP: When I was young I played football, basketball, handball.... I was good at basketball but not as good as football. I enjoy watching NBA games. San Antonio—sometimes you can feel in them that they are too old, that the season is long, but I really like the Spurs.

Have you ever tried to dunk?

GP:Pfft. [Laughs.] I have tried—we have a basket in the dressing room—but it's difficult.

"Maybe the best player in the world is Messi; the second one Ronaldo. But we have the third, the fourth, the fifth best."


Photograph by ALBERTO GAMAZO