Gerard Pique announces retirement from football and end of Barcelona 'journey'

Veteran defender says Saturday's match against Almeria will be his last game for the club at Camp Nou

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Barcelona defender Gerard Pique shocked the football on Thursday by announcing the weekend's match against Almeria will be his last match at Camp Nou.

Pique, 35, made the announcement on Twitter, saying "the moment has come to end this journey".

"Saturday's match [against Almeria] will be my last at the Camp Nou," Pique posted in a video on Twitter that has been viewed over 12 million times.

Saturday's match will give Barca fans a chance to say goodbye to one of the most decorated players in the club's history.

Since signing from Manchester United in 2008, Pique has won eight La Liga titles, seven Copa del Reys, three Champions Leagues and 12 other major trophies in more than 600 appearances in Barca's colours.

The veteran defender is also a World Cup winner (2010) and European Championship (2012) winner with Spain.

"I wanted to tell you that I've decided the moment has come to end this journey," he said in the clip of the star watching images of himself as a small boy wearing the Barcelona shirt, or chasing after autographs.

"There's no other team after Barca," he added. "I'm going to become a super fan, I'll be supporting the team and pass on my love for Barca to my son."

"And sooner or later, I'll be back," he concluded.

Though Saturday will be Pique's last home match, he is expected to be involved in the club's final La Liga fixture before the World Cup, a trip to face Osasuna on Tuesday.

Pique will not be part of Spain's squad at the Qatar World Cup this month having retired in August 2018 with 102 caps and five goals.

Barca president Joan Laporta told Barca TV Pique's decision to call time on his career is tied to the club's financial problems.

"He is part of the Barca club badge, he will always be a leader for Barca fans, he has clearly demonstrated what Barca love," president Joan Laporta told Barca TV.

"Pique understands our financial fair play situation and is very willing to help the club."

It remains to be seen what will happen to the money he was still owed by the club for deferring a part of his salary during the Covid-19 pandemic, with some reports in Spain suggesting he might let Barcelona off the hook to some extent, given their financial situation.

The Catalan defender has previously expressed a desire to become president of the club one day. This gesture would certainly be remembered by the club's member if and when Pique decides to makes that step.

Laporta and his board have mentioned the trouble they have had reducing their wage bill, with veteran players like Pique, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, at the higher end of the scale.

"A life dedicated to Barca, thank you Pique," wrote Barcelona on Twitter.

Arriving at the Camp Nou age 10, Pique left his home city for Manchester United's academy in 2004, winning a first Champions League trophy under then manager Alex Ferguson in 2008.

He then returned to Catalonia in 2008 and developed into one of the game's most assured defenders under the guidance of Pep Guardiola winning an unprecedented five trophies in 2009: league, cup, Champions League, Uefa Super Cup and Fifa Club World Cup.

Known as a defender with an eye for goal, Pique netted 52 times for Barcelona in 615 appearances, including in a famous 6-2 rout of Real Madrid in 2009.

While Pique will rightly be remembered as one of the club's greatest players, he leaves with Barca knocked out of the Champions League in the group stage for the second season running, as the club look to move into a new era.

Xavi used him this season as a fifth-choice centre-back, playing when others were injured, and his performances drew criticism, with some fans whistled him during the recent win over Villarreal at Camp Nou.

The defender was at fault for a goal which Inter Milan scored in a 3-3 draw at Camp Nou which virtually saw Barcelona eliminated from the Champions League.

"I am in shock, people have been unfair to you, few have defended the Barcelona shirt like you have," wrote former Barcelona defender and captain Carles Puyol on Twitter.

"I will always be able to say that I played by your side, a privilege, I love you, my friend."

A sporting hero in Spain, Pique had celebrity status too as partner to Colombian singer Shakira.

They met during the filming of the video of Shakira's 2010 World Cup anthem Waka Waka.

Shakira sang the official song before the 2010 World Cup closing ceremony in South Africa, with Pique's Spain defeating the Netherlands 1-0 in the final at Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium.

The couple, who announced their separation in June, have two children.

Pique has mixed playing with a burgeoning business career, founding the sports events company Kosmos which was behind the revamp of tennis' Davis Cup.

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Updated: November 04, 2022, 11:20 AM
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