Barcelona star Gerard Pique has admitted that the 2011/12 season served as a 'wake-up call' for him after losing his motivation, losing his place in the team and even worrying that his future at Camp Nou might be in jeopardy had things turned out slightly differently that year.
Having returned to his boyhood club from a four-year spell with Manchester United, Pique had won the Champions League in two of his first three seasons. The team had also dominated in La Liga and were widely seen as one of history's greatest ever sides.
It didn't extend to a fourth season, however, with Real Madrid fighting back and taking the 2011/12 title to the Bernabeu in record breaking fashion. Barça also fell short of retaining their Champions League crown after losing out to an underdog Chelsea team in the semi finals.
"Everything seemed to fall apart in 2012. I don't know why. Perhaps I had lost the fear that drove me to that level. But for whatever reason, I started questioning myself," Pique explained for The Player's Tribune.
"As the season went on, Pep [Guardiola] started to lose faith in me. For the first three seasons, we had a phenomenal relationship. I still revere Pep as a manager. But the truth is, it was an extremely hard time.
"He wanted his players to be obsessed with football 24 hours a day, and at that point in my life, I didn't understand it. I wasn't as committed to that philosophy.
"Pep simply didn't trust me anymore, and the crucial moment was when he decided not to play me against Real Madrid in the league. That was crushing to me."
Pique was left out of the first leg of the Chelsea Champions League tie. But, with Barça surprisingly trailing 1-0, he was brought back for the second leg at Camp Nou. A collision with goalkeeper Victor Valdes resulted in him being knocked unconscious and he was withdrawn and taken to hospital as Barça drew 2-2 and were eliminated.
"I woke up the next day, and I couldn't remember anything from the match. I couldn't even remember who won. I was in a complete fog," Pique recalled.
"It turns out, the match ended 2–2, and we were knocked out. Within a few days, Pep announced his departure from Barça. It felt like an era was coming to an end, and I thought that perhaps my time was up, too," he added.
"That season really made me think about my career, and my life. It was a wake-up call. When our team was playing for it all, Pep didn't believe in me anymore. Then, when he finally turned to me, I got knocked out cold.
"Sometimes I think about what would have happened if I had woken up the next day and found out that we had gone through against Chelsea. I was out with a head injury for weeks, so I definitely wouldn't have played in the final.
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"Maybe we would have won the Champions League. Maybe Pep would have decided to stay at Barça. Maybe he never would have regained his trust in me. Maybe I would be at another club right now. Instead, Tito Vilanova arrived as the manager the next season, and he gave me a chance to regain my place."
To read Spain and Barcelona defender Gerard Piqué's inaugural post on The Players' Tribune, 'A Long Story', in full, please visit: https://www.theplayerstribune.com/en-us/articles/gerard-pique-a-long-story. The Players' Tribune connects players with fans through the power of storytelling and has today announced its global expansion in partnership with Pique.