Gerard Pique is a marked man. The Catalan centre-back is at the eye of another storm after he was booed by Spain fans on Saturday night and then caught on camera emerging from a nightclub in the early hours of Sunday morning. Despite returning to his best on the pitch, he continues to court controversy off it.
The 28-year-old's international career looked very much in the balance a year ago as he struggled at the World Cup in Brazil, was dropped by coach Vicente del Bosque (even while others were just as bad or arguably even worse) and then punished by Barcelona boss Luis Enrique too as he was left out for four league matches in a row.
Pique sought the advice of former defensive partner and club captain Carles Puyol and admitted in an interview that he no longer considered himself one of the best centre-backs in the world. That was a challenge to himself to regain the fantastic form he had shown between 2008 and 2012. And against the odds, he managed it with some peerless performances in the second half of 2014-15, making himself an immovable object at the back as Barca won the treble.
But during the celebrations at Camp Nou, Pique poked fun at Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo as he said: "Thanks Kevin Roldan - it all started with you!". That was a reference to the Colombian singer's appearance at the Portuguese's controversial 30th birthday party in the capital, which came just hours after Los Blancos had suffered a damaging defeat against Atletico in La Liga, losing 4-0 to their city rivals at the Vicente Calderon.