Barcelona’s Gerard Pique announced his retirement on Thursday after a decorated career, saying “the moment has come to end this journey”.
“Saturday’s match (against Almeria) will be my last at the Camp Nou,” the 35-year-old posted on Twitter.
The veteran defender bows out with four Champions League titles and the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 with Spain.
“I wanted to tell you that I’ve decided the moment has come to end this journey,” he said in a video 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.
Pique is also expected to be involved in the club’s final La Liga fixture before the World Cup, a trip to face Osasuna on Tuesday.
“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 and this would certainly be remembered by future voters.
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.
Barca for life
Arriving at the Camp Nou aged 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, helping Barca to eight La Liga crowns, seven Copas del Rey and three Champions League titles in 2009, 2011 and 2015.
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.
Pique takes his leave 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 icon 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.
“Once a champion, always a champion,” wrote FIFA’s official World Cup account, along with a picture of Pique kissing the trophy.
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.
Kosmos and Pique courted controversy at payment they received for helping arrange the Spanish Super Cup’s move to Saudi Arabia.
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