Gerard Pique does not believe Didier Drogba is a diver but the Barcelona defender admitted he might change his mind if the Chelsea striker continued to go down easily in Tuesday night’s do-or-die Champions League clash at the Nou Camp.
Barca initially reacted by sportingly kicking the ball out of play but eventually became infuriated by Drogba’s antics, with captain Carles Puyol letting rip at the 34-year-old.
Pique, who could be charged with marking Drogba in Tuesday’s second leg, looked on from the bench on Wednesday and was diplomatic in the extreme in Monday’s pre-match press conference at the Nou Camp.
Informed that former Manchester United team-mate Wayne Rooney had hit out at Drogba on Twitter, Pique said: "He’s always on Twitter, isn’t he?
"I believe in Drogba that, every time he fell down, it was because he was in pain, or he felt a kick on him.
"I don’t think that, when Drogba fell down, he was trying to act or dive.
"If not, we’ll start to talk about football not having fair play and being all about cheats. Football is not like that.
"We have to keep all the good things, and diving and cheating is not good."
He added: "If he keeps doing that, you might end up thinking that’s the case (that he is not hurt). But I believe in his honesty."
Despite his theatrics, Drogba was outstanding on Wednesday night, scoring the winner and proving a handful for Barca’s defence.
Pique, who has missed the world and European champions’ last five matches, could be recalled specifically to combat the striker on Tuesday.
The 25-year-old’s only experience of playing against Drogba came in the 2009 Champions League semi-final and he revealed he was considering consulting former United team-mate Rio Ferdinand about dealing with the Ivory Coast star.
"Rio sent me a text message and wanted to talk to me today," he said.
"Maybe that’s what he wants to talk about. We could talk about Drogba.
"He’s one of the best forwards I’ve ever seen.
"It’ll be a very hard duel if I’m in the starting XI."
Pique’s recent absence has ostensibly been due to injury but there have also been rumours of a falling out with manager Pep Guardiola, amid concerns he has lost focus due to his relationship with pop star Shakira.
Pique said: "I look back over the whole season looking at where it could be better. Of course you think like that.
"I spoke with the coach on Friday again – we do, usually – and not just about football.
"He told me what he thought, and that’s it. He’s always tough on me. He has been since the first year, but I like that."
He added: "My relationship with him is very, very good."
Barca have also come under fire in the past week. Having previously been feted by some as the greatest club side of all time, back to back defeats against Chelsea and Real Madrid have led some to question whether they will win any major trophy this season.
Pique said: "A team that has won 13 trophies in three and a half years deserves more credit than that.
"Other teams need to win more championships before we start talking like that. We deserve respect."
Pique denied Barcelona had become overly reliant on Lionel Messi and refused to use fatigue as an excuse for their last two performances.
He also shrugged off Barca’s failure to beat Chelsea in their last seven meetings and was confident Guardiola would not jump ship when his contract expires this summer.
He said: "I’d bet he’ll be with us again next year."
Meanwhile, Messi was present at training on Monday after missing Sunday’s session with what Barca described as "slight physical discomfort".