Barcelona’s Spanish defender Gerard Pique (R) and Barcelona’s French defender Samuel Umtiti vie with Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema (L) during the Spanish league football match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on May 6, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Pau Barrena
Spain and Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has said he is surprised at criticism of his role in producing a video in which France star Antoine Griezmann announced he was staying at Atletico Madrid.
Griezmann caused a stir after appearing in the film on Thursday in which he ended speculation about a possible move to Barcelona by committing to Atletico.
Barcelona had made Griezmann, the top scorer at Euro 2016, their top summer transfer target.
Barcelona defender Pique’s production company, Kosmos Studios, produced the slick film entitled “The Decision”.
Although France coach Didier Deschamps said Friday he had “no problem” with the timing of Griezmann’s announcement, two days before Les Bleus kick off their campaign against Australia in Kazan, the fact Pique played an indirect role in its production has caused controversy in Spain.
Pique, however, said: “I was surprised by the reaction in Barcelona. I’m surprised that my involvement and my love for the club (Barcelona) is being placed in doubt.
“I’ve spoken to the (club) president (Josep Maria Bartomeu) and everything’s fine. He was a bit annoyed because he thought he (Griezmann) would sign.”
The film details negotiations between Griezmann and Barcelona before his decision to remain at Atletico and Spanish media reports have focused on assumptions Pique may have known about Griezmann’s intentions, but failed to inform his own club.
The backlash against the Spain international has been significant.
Writing in Friday’s edition of Barcelona-based daily Sport, the newspaper’s director, Ernest Folch, said: “The theatrical nature of this documentary shows perfectly just how powerful some players have become. They think they can now do what they want.”
Barcelona’s other big sports daily, Mundo Deportivo, also slammed Pique for encouraging watchers to “get out the pop-corn to watch the unfortunate unfolding of events that, as the producer, he knew all about.”
Pique has courted similar controvery in the past. In the summer of 2017 he admitted knowing of Neymar’s decision to quit Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain before the Brazilian star had informed Barcelona chiefs.
This latest controversy has also led to calls for current Barcelona president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, to exercise tighter control over players.
The man looking to replace Bartomeu in 2021, Victor Font, said: “They (players) should not have an active role, without the participation of the club, in issues which affect the interests of Barcelona.”
Spain’s World Cup preparations were already rocked by the sacking of coach Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the World Cup after Real Madrid announced the Spain coach would replace Zinedine Zidane at the club after the finals.
Shortly after Spain’s 3-3 World Cup opening draw against Portugal on Friday, an under-fire Pique tried to deflect any personal responsibility in the controversy.
“I’m not responsible for the fact that Barcelona didn’t sign a player about whom we’ve been speaking for the past few months,” said Pique.
“Griezmann told me a few months ago that he might sign for Barcelona,” added Pique.
“I said we could film it and produce something to show people how, from the inside, these kinds of important decisions are taken.”