Pique: I'm glad Ronaldo won Ballon d'Or

The defender thinks that his former Manchester United team-mate earned the accolade and suggested that Pep Guardiola is the best coach in the world

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique is pleased that Cristiano Ronaldo won the Ballon d’Or in January, ending Lionel Messi’s four-year streak.

The Real Madrid winger edged Barca forward Messi and Bayern Munich attacker Franck Ribery to win Fifa’s award for the best player in the world of 2013.

The centre-back thinks the Portuguese winger’s win was unexpected to some but that he fully expected his former Manchester United team-mate to take home the trophy.

“It took everyone by surprise, especially those who don’t know him, but not me,” Pique, 27, told Jot Down. “More than that in fact, not only did it not surprise me, I think it’s great.

“He’s got a reputation for being a tough-guy, being above it all, so it was good that he had that reaction. He really wanted it, he’d suffered for it and he got it. I like that.

“I’ve haven’t talked to him recently. I’ve changed my number a few times, just as he will have I guess, but if I’ve always got something good to say about him it’s because I like him.

“People base their opinion on gestures or comments without really knowing anything. I should say that from what I’ve seen recently he’s changed a bit, but personally I like the guy – he helped me a lot when I arrived at United.”

‘Don’t you want me?’ | Pique does not know if it’s true Guardiola wanted to ditch him

Pique also stressed his belief that there’s no one better in coaching than former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola, who is now in charge of Bayern Munich, but does not know if he left Camp Nou after being told he could not sell the defender.

“As a coach he’s number one,” he added. “I learnt the most from him. He taught me to understand football.

“Coaches tell you if you need to do one thing or another, if you need to position yourself here or there. Pep told you why you had to do it, the reason behind it. Pep helped me understand this sport better. I’ll never forget it. He’s the best.

“He’s already explained it, he’d given everything, he’d given everything he had. He was living it 24 hours a day and that wears you out.

“His leaving was a personal decision, just like Sandro Rosell [who resigned as Barca president in January]. They were never our decisions, they were theirs.

“Of course I heard a rumour, that one of the reasons behind Guardiola’s departure was that he’d asked to get rid of me, but you’d have to ask him if it’s true. He never said anything to me. I don’t know if it’s true or not.”

'Beautiful' Arsenal on par with Bayern, says Muller

The forward praised Arsene Wenger’s side and thinks the Gunners are the most difficult opponent the Bavarians could have faced in the Champions League

Thomas Muller says Arsenal play “beautiful football” and claims Bayern Munich head into their Champions League fixture on par with Arsene Wenger’s side.

Arsenal, who finished second behind Borussia Dortmund in the group stage, host the reigning European champions in the first leg of their last-16 tie on February 19.

And while Muller believes Wenger’s men will provide a difficult test for Bayern, the forward believes the German club’s dominance over the last few seasons makes them slight favourites.

“The Gunners play a very beautiful football, they are the most difficult opponent we could have got,” Muller told Kicker.

“We are on eye-level with this top team from the Premier League.
“We have had more success on national and international level than Arsenal in recent years, that’s why we are slight favourites.
“We are the holders and we have improved. Of course, we are the team to beat when it comes to the [Champions League] title.”

Bayern not signing Dortmund players to weaken them, insists Beckenbauer

The 68-year-old has responded to recent accusations that the Bundesliga champions are trying to derail their direct rivals

Bayern Munich honorary president Franz Beckenbauer has insisted that the Bavarians are not deliberately trying to weaken Borussia Dortmund.

BVB CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke recently hit out at the reigning Bundesliga champions, claiming that they aim to destroy their domestic rivals by signing their top players such as Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski.

Nevertheless, Beckenbauer has maintained that Bayern are solely focusing on strengthening their own team and not on possible side-effects.

“Bayern buy the players they feel they need to strengthen the team. It’s merely a coincidence if that includes two players who are at Dortmund,” Beckenbauer told Sky 90.

“Signing a player strengthens your own team, while weakening this player’s former team in the process. That’s not the main goal, though, but just a side-effect.”

Former Bayern star Paul Breitner slammed Watzke for his comments about Bayern’s philosophy at the weekend, but Beckenbauer feels the Dortmund director has every right to voice his opinion.

“Saying that Watzke is just trying to create an anti-Bayern atmosphere is wrong. He has the right to say how he feels.”

Bayern currently hold a 17-point lead over Dortmund in the Bundesliga table.

Bundesliga Team of the Week: Aubameyang ends Dortmund slump

The Gabon star scored twice as Jurgen Klopp’s side won at last, as Thiago Alcantara hit top form for Bayern Munich

Matchday 19 of the Bundesliga saw all of the traditional big guns claim victory, with Bayern Munich thrashing Eintracht Frankfurt 5-0, Bayer Leverkusen seeing off Stuttgart, Borussia Dortmund edging past Eintracht Braunschweig and Schalke recording a big 2-1 win over Wolfsburg. But there was talent from across Germany worth saluting in Goal‘s Team of the Week.

Borussia Monchengladbach’s poor start to 2014 continued with a 3-1 loss to a resurgent Hannover, but Marc-Andre ter Stegen stood out once more despite renewed speculation that he has agreed a deal with Barcelona.

Hoffenheim had their defenders to thank for a 3-0 victory over Hamburg, with Niklas Sule and Andreas Beck both on the scoresheet and the duo take their place in the back line alongside Felipe Santana, who also found the target for Schalke.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored both goals in a nervy 2-1 win for Dortmund at Braunschweig. Thiago Alcantara continued his personal run of good form against Frankfurt, Kevin-Prince Boateng scored Schalke’s other goal and Augsburg duo Halil Altintop and Tobias Werner complete the midfield after finding the target in the win against Werder Bremen.

Mame Biram Diouf got two of Hannover’s goals against Gladbach and is joined up front by Josip Drmic, who was once again key as Nurnberg climbed out of the relegation zone with victory over Hertha Berlin in the capital – only their second this season.

Robben refusing to believe title hype

The Netherlands international has urged his team-mates not to get carried away – despite sitting 13 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga

Arjen Robben has insisted that Bayern Munich are not yet certain of retaining their Bundesliga crown, despite restoring their 13-point lead at the top of the division.

The Bavarians beat Eintracht Frankfurt 5-0 on Sunday, which leaves Pep Guardiola’s side way out in front of second-placed Bayer Leverkusen and odds-on favourites to win the division again.

Nevertheless, Robben has warned his team-mates not to get carried away and is wary of teams raising their performance levels against Bayern in a bid to pull off a major scalp.

Everyone wants to beat the leaders, the champions,” the Dutchman was quoted as saying on the club’s official website.

“Therefore, it is crucial that we remain focused.

“No-one’s going to give us anything for free.”

Robben has been in sublime form for Bayern this term, scoring seven goals in 14 Bundesliga appearances so far.