Gerard Pique has insisted that Barcelona have not ‘paid referees’ after corruption charges were levelled at the club, claiming he would put his hand ‘on the fire’ to swear it didn’t happen.
Barcelona have been charged with ‘sporting corruption’ after it emerged that the club had allegedly made payments over a number of years to former vice-president of Spain’s refereeing commitee, Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira.
The payments of €7m allegedly came between 2001 and 2018 for reports and videos regarding how to behave in front of certain referees.
In an interview with RAC1, ex-Barca captain Pique – who was at the club for most of the period under investigation – has claimed that the Blaugrana did not pay referees and were simply superior to other teams during that period.
“I would put my hand on the fire that Barça has not bought referees,” the retired star said. “If you want to pay the referees, it’s easy, you stand by him and give the envelope, it’s easier than going to the vice-president of the refereeing committee.
“No matter how much they want to smear, that was a golden era. It’s not just the titles won, but how they were won. You can review everything: we were far superior . We didn’t depend on the referee, for better or for worse.”
During the 17-year period in question Barcelona won nine La Liga titles, six Copa del Rey, and four UEFA Champions League titles.
Real Madrid have voiced their ‘utmost concern’ about the corruption charges in a club statement, although Los Blancos president Florentino Perez has himself since been accused of trying to pressure or influence former referee Iturralde Gonzalez after a game in 2010.