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Sergi Roberto talks Xavi, Messi, Pique, Fati, Barcelona future, salary cuts



Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images

Barcelona defender Sergi Roberto is one among several players whose contract expires at the end of the season. The 30-year-old was in a similar situation last year as well, but managed to convince manager Xavi to renew him for another season.

Now, heading into 2023, Roberto, who has once again had an injury problem this season, is entering the final six months of his deal.

But, speaking in an interview with RAC1, the midfielder-turned-right-back insisted that he remains keen on staying at the club. And he also insisted that the Barça coaching staff also want him to continue at Spotify Camp Nou.

“We haven’t started talking yet, but my idea is to stay. From what the coaching staff has told me, they are very happy with me and want me to stay,” Roberto said.

Roberto’s career at Barcelona has been dominated by injuries, especially in recent years. And when asked about the worst moment in his career, the 30-year-old recounted an injury he picked up against Atletico Madrid, but insisted he is feeling rejuvenated since Xavi took over.

“Without a doubt when I was injured against Atlético, then I got into a negative dynamic, but when Xavi arrived I had an operation and now it’s perfect, I’m excited and I’m enjoying myself on the pitch,” he said.

Talking about how he was convinced to undergo surgery by Dr. Ricard Pruna, he added:
“During Koeman’s period when I was injured against Atletico, I was absent for two months and then I relapsed, I came back after that but I did not fully recover.

“There were times when I would have preferred not to play because I was not feeling comfortable. When Dr. Pruna arrived he told me ‘You have to have an operation, I don’t understand how you play like that.'”

Roberto further talked about how Xavi had helped him regain his confidence over the past year, saying:

“From the first day he arrived, Xavi gave me the confidence to work and recover calmly. He told me that they would be waiting for me and that they had complete confidence in me. For a player that’s the most important thing, to feel the coach’s confidence.”

On where he prefers to play, the Spaniard said: “Under Xavi, I played as a midfielder and as a right-back. I don’t care about the position. I play wherever the team needs me.”

Roberto was also quizzed about the possibility of club legend Lionel Messi returning to Spotify Camp Nou next summer. While he insisted that he would cherish it, he also admitted a move seems difficult.

“I want that, but it’s complicated because I read that he will renew with PSG. I haven’t spoken to him, but I’m sure that he won’t like any other club as much as Barça. It’s his boyhood club,” Roberto said.

Talking about Messi’s FIFA World Cup triumph with Argentina, he added: “I wanted Leo to win the World Cup if Spain didn’t win, I’m happy for him. I congratulated Messi, but he has not responded to me yet.”

Roberto, one of the club captains, saw Gerard Pique announce his retirement earlier this season. The Barça legend stepped down after seeing his stock in the squad reduce this season and Roberto insisted that his presence in the squad was missed.

“I was very sad about Pique’s departure, it’s a decision that touched us all a lot because he was the soul of the team and brought joy to the dressing room. We will miss him as he is someone who will always be remembered by all.”

Prior to his retirement, Pique was targeted by some section of the supporters, who whistled at him and booed the former Spanish international. And Roberto opened up on how some players were unfairly criticised, saying:

“Some players have been wronged, not just the captains. There were whistles or comments that can hurt sometimes but we didn’t say anything negative and we’re always here for what the club needs.

“There have been campaigns that went well beyond the footballing aspect… salary issues for example, against players that gave everything to the club. Some players don’t deserve the criticism they receive from the fans.”

Recounting how the club captains had helped the club two years ago by taking pay cuts, Roberto added: “Two years ago, the leaders were the only ones who cut their salaries.”

He also revealed how low his current wages were, stating: “My salary corresponds to a Barça B player that was just promoted to the first team. However, I do it proudly. I want to be here, and money is not important.”

Roberto also stated that he was ready to take over as the first captain of the club if he was chosen, but insisted Sergio Busquets remains the ideal choice. “I’m ready to become the first team captain. However, Busquets is the best possible captain for this group,” he said.

The 30-year-old also backed Ansu Fati to come good for Barcelona despite his injury problems in the recent past, saying: “He’s calm and happy now. Goals will come with time. He’s one of the most hard-working players. He’s a great player who makes a difference and I’m sure he’ll be successful for many years at Barcelona.”

Looking forward to the New Year, Roberto said: “I lived complex years with injuries, but I am convinced that 2023 will be completely different and that injuries will be forgotten. I am 100% sure that in this second period of the season I will be better than ever.”

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