EMPICS Sport Gerard Pique endured a disappointing season with Barca last year.

Pique: Van Gaal said I wasn't 'tough enough' to be a centre back

The Barcelona player also claimed he is not one of the best defenders in the world on current form.

Updated at 14.59

BARCELONA DEFENDER GERARD Pique said he is far from the best defender in the world, following Spain’s elimination at the World Cup and backed Louis van Gaal to shine at Man United.

The star also revealed that the renowned disciplinarian, who has recently been appointed as Man United’s new coach, treated him harshly as a youngster, telling Sky Sports:

“I didn’t know him a lot because I was really young when he was Barcelona’s coach, but he had a really good relationship with my grandfather (Amador Bernabéu), the former vice-president of the club.

“I had the chance to see him one day at my grandfather’s house when I was 12 or 13 years old. He arrived at the house and he knew I was playing for the Barcelona youth team. He pushed me and I fell to the floor, and he said ‘you are not tough enough to be a centre-back’.”

“So, yes, he really is a disciplinarian, and I think he will do brilliantly here.”

Over the past few years, Pique’s name has regularly been mentioned when the question of ‘Who is the best defender in the world?’ is raised.

But Pique’s reputation has suffered over the past 12 months.

After playing in Spain’s first match in Brazil, which they lost 5-1 to Netherlands, the 27-year-old central defender was dropped for the following match against Chile and was left out for their win over Australia due to a thigh strain.

Spain returned home in disgrace, while the World Cup debacle for the 2010 champions was yet another blow to Pique and his Barcelona team-mates, who finished the 2013-14 season with just the Supercopa de Espana in the trophy cabinet.

After such a period, Pique insisted he has dropped down the global pecking order of defenders but hopes new Barcelona coach Luis Enrique can help him rise again.

“Right now I’m not even top three in the world,” Pique said at a media conference on Thursday.

“I can’t be for the season I had with Barca and the World Cup with the national team.

“I know that to play at Barca I have to be among the top three in the world.

“I also know that I can regain form and I will do. But if I can’t live up to the highest standards, I’m the first to raise my hand and say I can’t.

“I’m convinced that Enrique will help me and I’ll get my level up again.”

Pique did not shy away from declaring last season as a “failure” for Barcelona but insisted the Catalan club do not have to bridge a large gap to again challenge the likes of reigning La Liga champions Atletico Madrid.

“It was a failure. Barca only won the Supercopa de Espana. We failed in the Copa del Rey and the league ended up worse,” he said.

“But it’s clear that if we can improve we will be close to the trophies, if done with humility and hard work.

“Barca have the ingredients to do something great.”

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