FC Barcelona defender Gerard Pique remains very proud to have represented Manchester United and has fond memories of his time in England, but maintains he always knew a move back to his homeland would be on the cards.
The Spanish centre back is a product of the famed La Masia Barcelona academy but chose to leave Catalonia for Old Trafford as a 17-year-old in 2004, winning a number of trophies during his four years at the club before re-joining his boyhood club for £5 million in the summer of 2008.
Pique has since gone on to become one of the most decorated players in recent history with the 26-year-old a mainstay of the all-conquering Barcelona team, earning plaudits for his composed style and ball-playing abilities. However, he is proud of his time at United.
“The kid who went to Manchester was a boy of 17 who found himself in a changing room full of stars and had a wonderful time,” Pique told the Daily Telegraph.
“I remember when I was called to train with the first team, it was wonderful.
“That prepared me for what was coming, for the return to Barcelona. Without that pressure, I would have been a bit green when I came here.
“I am very proud of my three years there, of having decided to go to Manchester first – at 17 it was the perfect time for me to leave home because it helped make me as a person.
“I am proud to have been part of a Sir Alex Ferguson team. Even though every time I meet him I tell him that he got it wrong with me!”
Pique has faced United on two occasions with Barcelona, coming out on the winning side in the 2009 and 2011 Champions League finals and insists a move back to Spain was always likely.
He added: “You want to come back. This is the best club in the world, you get titles, enjoy the style, are at home. If you leave it is because you don’t see the road clear to the top.
“When Cesc and I left, in the same year, we had a great team with Messi in it. We were beating everybody but I took the risk of leaving all that behind and test myself.
“But everybody that leaves does so thinking, ‘I will be back one day’.