Combining Twitch streaming and seven-a-side football with the likes of Sergio Aguero and Chicharito thrown in the mix ... what is Gerard Pique's latest brainchild and how does he hope to 'revolutionize traditional sport'?

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Gerard Pique had already made a reputation for himself as one of the busiest players in the game before his retirement in November 2022 after 18 years as a professional footballer.

Through his sports media investment group Kosmos Holding, Pique has become the owner of not one but two football clubs, founded an eSports team, manufactured a deal to redevelop Tennis' Davis Cup, and bought broadcasting rights for the 2021 Copa America. 

It is hard to know where he found the time, what with racking up a considerable tally of 718 games for Barcelona and Spain combined, but it would appear he has hardly wasted a second. 

Gerard Pique bid goodbye to Barcelona in November but is about to launch his latest project

Gerard Pique bid goodbye to Barcelona in November but is about to launch his latest project

Gerard Pique bid goodbye to Barcelona in November but is about to launch his latest project

In 2021 he even appeared to introduce a new sport to the world, thanks to his increasingly fruitful partnership with Spanish Twitch streamer Ibai Llanos, who broadcast the inaugural Balloon World Cup that the pair had masterminded. 

And as prolific as Pique has been on the field, Llanos himself has become the fourth-most viewed Twitch streamer in the world, won three Streamer of the Year Awards and featured alongside Kylian Mbappe, Charles Leclerc and Emma Raducanu on Forbes' 30 under 30 in Sports and Games. 

But now, with his playing days officially behind him, the legendary Spanish defender has once again joined forces with Llanos in the next phase of their blossoming partnership to pioneer a new footballing format - the Kings League.

Ibai Llanos is one of the world's leading Twitch streamers and has frequently partnered with Pique

Ibai Llanos is one of the world's leading Twitch streamers and has frequently partnered with Pique

Bringing the at-times anachronistic game into the future has seemingly been a long-term goal for Pique, who made his name as arguably one of the best to ever play in his position in history before his retirement.

'The way of living sport has changed and that is why we have to revolutionise traditional sport; young people can’t stand a full game and pay more attention to the networks, alternative or multi-screen channels,' Pique said at his Kosmos headquarters.

And it would appear that that is exactly what the defender has sought to do with his first project since hanging up his boots.

The Pique-Llans partnership combined to bring the Balloon World Cup to the world in 2021

The Pique-Llans partnership combined to bring the Balloon World Cup to the world in 2021

Striking up with his previous business partner Llanos - with whom he co-founded esports outfit KOI - Pique has created the Kings League, which will see football and the online streaming world combine to bring football into the future by embracing the changes it has largely remained unaffected by.

The Kings League will involve 12 teams, controlled by a mix of former players, Spanish TikTokers, Twitch streamers, and even a journalist, in a 7 v 7 league starting in January. Games will be played every Sunday in Barcelona from January 1, before the play-offs at the end of the normal season, starting Sunday March 26. 

But the Kings League is more than just any seven on seven league, with a few friends and famous faces taking part. It comes with the unmistakable identity of one of the game's more open-minded and forward-thinking exponents. 

The Kings League will see 12 teams - led by footballers and streamers - battle it out every week in January

The Kings League will see 12 teams - led by footballers and streamers - battle it out every week in January

Llanos' involvement ensures that the King League will reach a new audience, harnessing the untapped potential of Twitch, where each and every game is set to be broadcast for free, thereby making the world's game truly universally accessible.

The 12 Kings League teams

Porcinos FC - Ibai Llanos, Spanish Twitch streamer

Sayans FC - The Grefg, Spanish Twitch streamer

Rayo Barcelona - Spursito, Spanish Twitch streamer

Aniquiladores FC - JuanSGuarnizo, Colombian Twitch streamer 

Kunisports - Sergio Aguero, ex-Argentina striker

Ultimate Mostoles - DjMariio, Spanish Twitch streamer

Jijantes FC - Gerard Romero, Spanish journalist 

PIO FC - Rivers, Mexican Twitch streamer

El Barrio - Adri Contreras, Spanish TikToker

XBuyer Team - xBuyer and MiniBuyer, Spanish Twitch streamers

1K - Iker Casillas, ex-Spain goalkeeper

Troncos FC - Perxitaa, Spanish Twitch streamer

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Launched in 2011, the online streaming platform Twitch has approximately 15million daily active users as of 2020.

They use it to view a variety of content from gaming videos to music broadcasts and other creative content - though they can now add over 60 free football matches to that impressing viewing list.

Moreover the ex-Barca legend has seen the importance of social media in cultivating a fanbase and increasing supporter interaction in this new form of the game - so much so, that many of the rules are decided by Twitter pole.

The aim is to get people involved - and Pique has great plans for that. 

'With cameras and microphones you can access the changing rooms, see how the players talk to the coaches, see how people buy and sell in the transfer market, follow the draft,' he added.

For example, fans flocked to the Kings League official Twitter page to vote in droves for two periods of 20 minutes rather than three thirds of ten minutes.

They also voted for a water polo-style kick-off that sees teams line up at the rear of the pitch and rush for the ball in the centre, and unlimited substitutions. 

'In this sport it is difficult to change the rules,' the ex-defender explained. 'Here it will be flexible and will adapt to what people believe.'

And if the new rules that have been selected by the general public are anything to go by, then viewers will need to adapt fast. 

But despite the irrefutable viewership of the likes of Spanish Twitch streamers The Grefg, Perxitaa and Llanos - who alone accounted for over 1.2million hours of Twitch views in the week December 13-20 - Pique has turned to some of his well known former team-mates to join him in his newest venture. 

World Cup winning goalkeeper Iker Casillas and former Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero - fresh from his Buenos Aires celebrations - will both be taking charge of a side (1K and Kunisports respectively) to bring some validation from the traditional football world. 

Iker Casillas (second right) won the World Cup and Euros alongside Pique (L) with Spain

Iker Casillas (second right) won the World Cup and Euros alongside Pique (L) with Spain

And it doesn't stop there, with Kunisports coached by former Espanyol Star Martin Posse,  Mexican league veteran Cesar Delgado turning out for Colombian streamer JuanSGuarnizo's Anquiladores FC and recently retired Athletic Bilbao legend Ibai Gomez will be in the dugout for journalist Gerard Romero's Jijantes FC. 

It is perhaps indicative of the style of football that is set to be played that Casillas has gone for a former futsal World Championship winner - Julio Garcia Mera - to coach his side, with the small-sided games likely to focus more on touch-tight passing with limited space like you would expect on a futsal court.  

The core of each team will be made up by amateur players and street footballers, but two spots in every team will be made available to an outsider - that could be a former player, a current star or even a celebrity, with anyone able to join in the action.

Sergio Aguero played with Pique at Barca and will take charge of the Kunisports FC team

Sergio Aguero played with Pique at Barca and will take charge of the Kunisports FC team

Llanos' Porcinos FC have arguably pulled off the biggest coup so far in signing up ex-Manchester United and Real Madrid star Javier Hernandez. 

But Chicharito - the veteran of two Premier League titles with the Red Devils - is far from retired, and is still contracted to LA Galaxy until the end of 2023, but has chosen to take time out during the MLS off-season to lead the line for Llanos' outfit. 

And he will come into the competition on red-hot form after 18 goals and three assists from 32 outings this season with the MLS outfit. And Llanos was not satisfied with just one Club World Cup winner - he also approached ex-Spain and Barca boss Luis Enrique and tried to convince him to sign on.

Llanos asked former Champions League winning manager Luis Enrique if he wanted to join his team

Llanos asked former Champions League winning manager Luis Enrique if he wanted to join his team

Enrique laughed off the question, but insisted that he would still be watching all the games

Enrique laughed off the question, but insisted that he would still be watching all the games

'Would you like to join my Kings League team to support us? Chicharito Hernandez is in my team and I need a coach,' Llanos asked, perhaps a little speculatively. 

'I would love to, I will watch the games,' replied Enrique. 'But find yourself a prestigious coach, not me... Or let's see.'

Former Premier League winners or not - each and every player in the Kings League will be paid and considered professional. 

Javier Hernandez won two Premier League titles during his time with Manchester United

Javier Hernandez won two Premier League titles during his time with Manchester United

It is all part of the ex-defender's wish to make the game more accessible, more engaging, and more involved. The Kings League is very much a version of the game that almost anyone can be part of. 

The IPL-NBA style draft was completed on December 27, and with that the stage is finally set, with all 12 sides fully stocked and ready to go on January 1, when the Kings League officially kicks off in Barcelona. 

Llanos and Pique are seeking to change football and bring it into the future

Llanos and Pique are seeking to change football and bring it into the future

What remains to be seen is whether or not it will actually catch on. The Balloon World Cup - arguably the most out-there move made by the dynamic Pique-Llanos partnership - was an instant hit in the sporting community, fetching an impressive 8m views for the final match, which was also watched by a sold-out audience. 

It is sure to have its doubters to start with. There will be teething problems, the viewing figures will take a while to take off while the general public works out how to sign up for a Twitch account - which is free by the way - and the quality will not match that of the club football we are regularly treated to. 

But it promises to do exactly what it says on the tin; send a breath of fresh air through a sport that is so often marred by allegations of corruption, an inability to embrace technology, and something which is proving increasingly inaccessible despite it's billing as the game for one and all. 

Whether or not fans take to the same-but-different style of the game they love so much when it kicks off on New Years Day is largely academic. The real victory is that one of football's most decorated and celebrated stars can use their platform to pursue improvement and advancement of a sport that has largely stayed the same for over a century. 

Pique's latest project will be a breath of fresh air in a sport that has remained largely unchanged in over a century

Pique's latest project will be a breath of fresh air in a sport that has remained largely unchanged in over a century

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