I’ve played with Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, but this Manchester United legend is who I aspired to be

Gerard Pique has described Rio Ferdinand as ‘the guy’ he admired the most when he joined Manchester United.

The Spanish defender completed a move from his boyhood club Barcelona to the Premier League giants in 2004, aged just 17.

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Pique signed for United when he was just a teenagerCredit: Getty

Pique joined a star-studded squad featuring players including Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs, all of whom he played with during his time at United.

However, it was fellow centre-back Ferdinand, who at the time was establishing himself as one of the best, that Pique admired the most.

Speaking exclusively to talkSPORT on Drive, Darren Bent asked how much influence the England legend had on him, and he said: “A lot.

“Because I think that obviously him with the English style, in the Premier League you play a little bit different than in Spain, but we were very similar the way we played.

“Also in terms of physically, we were very similar. He was stronger but we wanted to play the ball. In the Premier League we don’t play it as much as in Barcelona, in Barcelona we took a lot of risks, but we were very similar players.

“For me, when I arrived there, he was the guy, to really see what he’s doing, to learn from him, he gave a lot of advice at that time that was very good for me.

“I consider him also, some people say John Terry, for me Rio was the best of all-time in the Premier League, at least from what I saw.

“Because sometimes what happens off the pitch, it seems that people consider you a little bit less because you have different interests outside of the pitch et cetera, and Rio is this style of guy like I am in Spain.

Pique faced some of the best in the league during training

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Pique faced some of the best in the league during trainingCredit: Getty
But it's Ferdinand who stood out the most to him during his four-year spell

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But it’s Ferdinand who stood out the most to him during his four-year spellCredit: Getty

“But then on the pitch, he was like incredible, he performed always at a very high level and was a great example.”

Before returning to Barcelona in 2008, Pique won the Premier League, the Champions League and the League Cup with United.

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With talent like Rooney, Ronaldo and Ruud van Nistelrooy in the attack, he was able to improve his game against some of the best in football during training.

“It was amazing that time because I was very, very young and every day when I arrived to the dressing room, I mean we had Giggsy, [Paul] Scholesy, Gary Neville.

“So that generation from [The Class of] 92, it was incredible but at the same time we had the Rooneys, Ronaldos that were coming. I remember that time like crazy, every training was like a chance to prove that I was able to play at that level.

Pique and Ferdinand would later become opponents on the big stage

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Pique and Ferdinand would later become opponents on the big stageCredit: Getty

“It was tough, I can tell you because every day you have to mark Rooney or Van Nistelrooy or Cristiano, but it’s good because for you then level everyday it’s better and better and better because you have a challenge to face.

“It helped me a lot to become the player that I was thanks to also those teams that we had during those years at Manchester United.”

Pique went on to become one of modern football’s greatest ever defenders at Barcelona, where he won an incredible 30 major trophies.

It’s clear that his time at United helped to influence his path to success, with Ferdinand still holding a positive impression today.



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