Barcelona Interviews

Pjanić: “I will be a teammate that you can always count on”

Miralem Pjanić, posing in Barcelona colours. /
Miralem Pjanić, posing in Barcelona colours. /

Midfielder Miralem Pjanić is ready and looking forward to the week of his official debut with Barça. The former Juventus man already played a few minutes in the game against Elche and is about to make his league debut against Villarreal on Sunday. The Bosnian recently sat for a telematic interview.

How have these first days been? Do you like Barcelona?: “Very good. My first days were good. I feel bad that I arrived late because of covid, but I am getting in shape. I am in a hotel and I hope to find a home soon. The city has impressed me a lot, positively, because I didn’t expect it to be like that. Little by little, physically I am getting better and better and that is important.”

Is the team still in shock from the 2-8 defeat?: “I have seen the guys very motivated. Obviously, last season was a bit unfortunate, but at this moment I see the guys very focused on work, very determined and a new coach has arrived as well. The workouts are very intense and good. I think everyone must be upset and have a feeling of taking revenge for everything that happened. Last season was an unlucky and a complicated season because we already know that it has been a hard year for everyone in general, and nobody knew what would happen due to the coronavirus, which stopped football for two months, and then we returned to play after a while. We are not used to it.”

Is it better to get to Barça at a time like this, of changes, or to a champion Barça?: “There is no better way to get here. A footballer does not care about when he arrives at Barça. It is something great, a dream for all footballers, so there is no time to choose. Here you arrive with great desire and great will. Being chosen by Barça at any time is very important, because we know very well that the players here, they must have certain qualities and a certain way of playing. Being chosen has been a great pride for me. It is a very important opportunity that I had in the past, but I couldn’t realize it.”

When could you come to Barça?: “We spoke with Barcelona two or three times before, but talking about it is one thing and actually doing it is another. It is different and difficult. But there was no possibility of coming earlier because the other club did not want to hear offers, and football is like that. When this very real and very strong new opportunity presented itself, I accepted this new experience because for me it is a dream to play at the Camp Nou. I am very motivated and I hope to do great things in these four years.”

What has surprised you the most about your new club? Is it Messi?: “Football is great sport and here, what you find are many great footballers and of a very great quality. Messi? It doesn’t need me to say how good he is and that he is possibly the best player ever. It is something that is already known and that shows every weekend or every three days on the pitch. In training it is something that I have already seen. He is an extraordinary player and my desire was to be able to play with this champion. But I am also very happy to be in a team where there are so many good players who have done so much for football. It is a very good group, with great champions. I will be part of this team and I will try to do my best to be available to all of them throughout the year.”

How long will it take to see the best version of Pjanić?: “It depends. We will see with the ‘mister’ when I can play. Right now I’m here to get physically in tune because I arrived a little later, but I will bide my time. I’ve come here to play, it’s normal, I want to give this team a hand and we’ll see. The important thing is that I am physically fit to give everything on the field. It will be soon.”

With whom have you had the most affinity in these early days?: “I’ve talked to everyone. They have come to talk to me, almost all of them have looked for me to talk, to see how I am, how I am feeling, if I am missing something or if I need something. I also keep in touch with Ivan (Rakitic), who has left. I just have to thank everyone. They are good guys, responsible, with a big heart and they can count on me on and off the pitch. I will be a teammate that you can always count on.”

Does Koeman’s 4-2-3-1 favor your game?: “I already played with this formation two or three years ago with Juventus. Also in the national team I played like that in that place (in the double pivot). We reached the Champions League final playing with two men in front of the defense. But in the end, it will be the coach who sees and decides how to play, if it is with two in the center of the field, 3 or I don’t know. I will be at your disposal. I am lucky to have played in various positions in the past. I can be useful.”

You can play alongside De Jong or Busquets. Can their characteristics make you vary your game?: “It will not change. We all have very precise qualities. It will be very useful to organize the game, make the rest play well and also cover the defenders. So our work will be global, but it doesn’t matter who plays… we will adapt for the good of the team.”

Do we have to tell Messi to advance his position so that you can give him the key passes?: (Laughs) “Messi… when you give him the ball something always happens. We are lucky to have such a player on the team. We will try to put him in the best possible conditions because then he always shows all his talent, all his class and everything he knows how to do. Having him is a matter of great luck for us and we have to make the most of it.”

The fans want to see another Xavi and Iniesta. Are you more Xavi or more Iniesta?: “No no no. I am not another player. I will be what I will be and I will be judged by my football. We are talking about two players who are the best of the best. Seeing that Barça play was a joy, a dream for anyone who loved football. I will play my football, I will try to play Barça football and I will try to do well. I don’t want to compare myself to anyone. I have great respect for these two footballers. I will try to do my best, but also with favorable results, because in the end the important thing will be the results.”

Has Koeman asked you of something yet?: “More or less. But we will still use the next few days to improve things and to see exactly how he wants things done. But more or less I have already understood his way of playing and I will try to interpret it well.”

Can you reveal something about that style of play?: (Laughs) “Something? It will come out soon. Our way of playing is something that you will see for yourself. What I try is to listen to the coach’s advice and help the team play well, and I will always be at the disposal of my teammates and will always try to give a solution to the game. I think this is something that is in the DNA of Barça and I don’t think they have many difficulties for it.”

You are going to coincide with young talents such as Pedri, Ansu, Trincão…How can you help them?: “They are very talented players, but they lack a bit of experience, and that’s normal. I think a mixture of the two is a good thing for the team. They bring freshness and many other things to the team. They are very good and strong players, with talent and qualities. They are young. It is important for them to listen to the coach and to the experienced players.”

Riqui Puig has decided to stay despite Koeman suggesting a loan. What would you advise?: “I do not advise anything, he is a player like all of us who are here, he is at the disposal of the squad, he is born here, there is a lot of attention on him, but it is the coach who decides whether to play him or not. For a young person it is important to play, have experience, learn and grow. He has many qualities and talents but in the end he is a player like the others. This is a great team and therefore it will have competition.”

You are a great free kick taker, but at Barça, there is Messi. Will you ask for any?: “It has always been one of my better qualities. I’ve always worked for it, because a foul can unlock difficult matches and you can solve a match. We know that Leo shoots them very well. If I have the opportunity I will always be there, but then it will surely be decided with Leo or whoever takes the free kick. I will be one more option, from another profile, but it will be seen.”

What do you have to say about the emotional goodbye of Luis Suárez?: “He has been a very important player, one of the best attackers in recent years who has given so much to Barça. His departure will be a loss, it would be stupid to say otherwise, but this is the reality. Whoever takes his position will have a great responsibility for what Luis has done before him. I have great respect for Luis and I wish him the best.”

Is ‘step by step’ the recipe for success?: “In a big club they never have time for ‘little by little’. You are always here to win. But it is true that we should not go so fast all the time. You have to go game by game. The objective is to compete for all the competitions, stay physically well and to ensure that all the players are available. This way, all competitions can be played well. The League is very important, the Cup as well and the Champions League is everyone’s dream.”

What do you remember as a child in Barça?: “The Camp Nou and the great and fantastic players who were here. Rivaldo, Ronaldinho…players that the whole world dreamed of.”

You’ve had number 1’s like Totti in Rome, Cristiano in Juventus and now Messi in Barça as teammates. What unites them?: “And Buffon too! The mentality is the most important thing and the one they all have is unique. They have played for many years at a top level and for that you have to be focused on your work, you have to love football. They always want to improve in all competitions, they are an example for everyone.”

There has been banter that Cristiano would tell you not to go to Barça. What do you have to say about that?: “Unlike that, when everything was done he told me that he was very happy for me, that I would be happy here because the game in Spain is very good and strong. He was disappointed that I was leaving Juventus, but he told me that he thinks I will have a lot of fun in a great team like Barcelona. Cristiano has been very professional at Juventus, he is a player who has done many great things and who has been very important in the dressing room setting an example for everyone.”

In Madrid, they do not have good memories of you for that goal that you threw them out of the Champions League with, a few years ago with Lyon. What would you give to repeat that with Barça?: I would only do something if I know my team wins. If we win and I score a goal, then even better, but winning is the most important thing for me. We are talking about a strong club, a team that will always compete with us, that will try to win everything like us and will surely be a difficult opponent. It will be important to beat them, win against them and bring the trophies here at home.”