Basketball legend Pau Gasol was presented formally as a member of FC Barcelona on Thursday in a press conference held at center court in Palau Blaugrana to mark the player's return to the club he grew up in and has rejoined 20 years later.
Gasol made it clear that one reason for returning to Barcelona was to win the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, the one major club title that he does not already own. The 40-year-old center was signed by Barcelona on February 23, ahead of the EuroLeague deadline for roster changes, and has been registered to play in the competition for the remainder of the season.
"We have a rough idea when I will come back if everything goes the way things are going now."
"I am happy to contribute to this already excellent team. They are in a great moment, I enjoy watching them play and compete," Gasol said in his opening statement. "One of my aspirations is that I hope I can help win the EuroLeague, which is the title I have not won yet."
Gasol was joined at the presentation by club president Joan Laporta, head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius, fellow team legend Juan Carlos Navarro, teammates Pierre Oriola, Nikola Mirotic and Adam Hanga, and his family, among others.
"Checking the long list, there's only one title missing in your roll of honors. And I think we all here know which one it is," Laporta said. "I am sure that you will continue to write history and I am sure you will achieve the goals you have set."
Having arrived in Barcelona on March 3, Gasol has been training, at first individually, while he awaits his debut in the No. 16 jersey he last wore in the 2000-01 season.
"Nobody gives away the titles, you have to win them."
"I am thankful for the expectations," Gasol said. "We have a rough idea when I will come back if everything goes the way things are going now, but we do not want to set it in stone a particular date or game. Yesterday, it was a good practice, demanding. Today there's another one, so we'll see how the week goes to put a date to my return, one that makes the most sense. We are all eager for that date to come; I hope it is soon."
Gasol has not played in two years since suffering a long-term leg foot injury, but he made it clear in answering questions from the media after his presentation that he did not want to see his career end that way.
"My discipline and will to play again pushed me to be here," he said. "It has been hard, but I also knew for certain that whatever happened, I had a privileged career. More than privileged and fortunate. I wanted to put the cherry on top and end my career having fun and competing."
Gasol said he hopes to add his championship experience to a Barca team that is having its best EuroLeague season in a long time, leading the standings at the moment with a 22-9 record as the only team that has already clinched a playoff berth. With a victory on Friday at home against ALBA Berlin, Barca can also guarantee itself home-court advantage in the playoffs.
"My competitiveness is always there, more now than ever."
"When you are in a club like Barca, you are always expected to win and feel the pressure," Gasol said. "I think it's a good thing because it's the pressure of the top teams. However, nobody gives away the titles, you have to win them. There are other great teams that want to win, too. You have to be there in the best moment. I am here to contribute what I can, and that will be for the coaches to decide. And from there I will try to do my job in the best possible way.
"My ambition is still there, my competitiveness is always there, more now than ever," Gasol concluded. "I'm excited for this new, final stretch of my career and I'm going to give it my all."