MADRID - Even though Fernando Hierro piled
up 29 goals in 89 matches for Spain he believes defensive
successor Gerard Pique is a better player.
Barcelona were desperate for a goal in the latter stages of
Wednesday's Champions League semi-final exit by Inter Milan and
it was to Pique that coach Pep Guardiola turned, throwing him
forward to act as a makeshift striker.
The 23-year-old, who also scored a superb goal in the 6-2
demolition of Real Madrid at the Bernabeu last season and has
netted four times in 14 appearances for Spain, showed excellent
skill and composure to fire home in the 84th minute.
"People compare him to me but I think he has a lot more
quality because he scores goals with a striker's soul," former
Real Madrid stalwart Hierro told As newspaper.
"You look at some of the things he does with the ball and it
stuns you," added Spain's technical director. "He thinks like a
Such versatility could be a valuable weapon for Spain coach
Vicente del Bosque at the World Cup in South Africa in June.
The central defender known by the media as "Piquenbauer",
after Germany's Franz Beckenbauer, has shot up the pecking order
with club and country since returning to the Catalan capital in
2008 after three seasons at Manchester United and one on loan at
Del Bosque is likely to pair him with Barca captain Carles
Pujol at the back, a partnership that has contributed much to
the club's achievement of conceding only 21 goals in 35 La Liga
matches this season.
Tall and strong, Pique is comfortable bringing the ball out
of defence and has a sound understanding with Barca and Spain
midfielders Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
There are also other strings to his bow, according to sports
daily El Mundo Deportivo.
"His footballing qualities aside, Pique impresses for his
strong personality and leadership skills," the paper wrote on
"We're not just talking about a great centre-back but a
player who is totally committed and has the ability of a
striker, as his goal against Inter proved."
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