The football world is celebrating the career of Gerard Pique after the Barcelona star's shock announcement that he is retiring from football after this weekend's game.
The veteran defender bows out having won four Champions League titles, as well as the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 with Spain.
The retirement bombshell comes less than three weeks out from the start of the World Cup in Qatar, although Pique was set to miss out on Luis Enrique's squad, having not featured for La Furia Roja since since the 2018 edition in Russia.
Pique released an emotional video on social media to confirm his retirement, explaining that "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 said on Twitter.
I’m not crying, you’re crying 😭
Gerard Pique announces his retirement from football with this wholesome piece.
The defender’s final game will be against Almeria this Sunday morning from 6:55am on Optus Sport.#LaLiga #OptusSport pic.twitter.com/KoYmzIBIzc
— Optus Sport (@OptusSport) November 3, 2022
"I wanted to tell you that I've decided the moment has come to end this journey," Pique added in a video clip of him 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."
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.
It's understood the move for Pique to retire will save the cash-strapped Spanish club some €42 million ($AUD65 million). 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 such a gesture would further endear the legendary defender to the fans and future voters.
"A life dedicated to Barca, thank you Pique," Barcelona wrote on Twitter, as more tributes poured in on social media for a player who won an astonishing 30 trophies during his time at the Catalan club.
Gerard Piqué announces he is retiring from football and will play his last match for Barcelona this Saturday 🔵🔴 pic.twitter.com/yCe6gg9sk7
— B/R Football (@brfootball) November 3, 2022
Following Gerard Piqué’s decision, his contract will be terminated nezt week with immediate effect. He will give up the remainder of his contract until June. 🚨🔵🔴 #Piqué
“Sooner or later, I'll be back here at Barça”, he added about his future. pic.twitter.com/PFpNKL9hMa
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) November 3, 2022
Obviously Pique overstayed, but still sad to see a legendary career coming to an end. Fair to say his last seasons weren’t great, but overall he has collectively won a lot of trophies for Barcelona and played a key role in it & that’s something to appreciate. Farewell, Geri! 💙 pic.twitter.com/7284f1gw8W
— Reshad Rahman ✆ (@ReshadRahman_) November 3, 2022
Wishing @3gerardpique the very best of luck in his retirement. One of the giants of our beautiful game. A simply wonderful footballer who won it all. He’ll be missed.
— Gary Lineker 💙💛 (@GaryLineker) November 3, 2022
Few players have had the success that Gerard Piqué has had in his career:
- 8 La Liga titles
- 1 Premier League
- 4 Champions League
- 7 Copa del Rey
- 1 English League Cup
- 3 Club World Cup
- 3 European Super Cups
- 6 Spanish Super Cup
- 1 EURO
- 1 World Cup
Serial winner. pic.twitter.com/PtsOhmGdSy
— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) November 3, 2022
Believe me Gerard Pique has been a legendary centre half for Barça, played over a decade and even last year that defence was noticeably worse when he wasn’t playing. Anyone who thinks otherwise I can’t listen to on football. At his peak he was as good as any CB in the world
— James (@JamesyMc10) November 3, 2022
What is this I’m hearing about Pique?! Wow…
A true icon of this club, a great of the game, but ultimately - this was long overdue. Nonetheless, he deserves a legends farewell. Keeping in mind, it’s *never* easy to step away. pic.twitter.com/nbnKu6jAJo
— Neal 🇦🇺 (@NealGardner_) November 3, 2022
End of an absolutely legendary career. Thank You Gerard Piqué! 💙❤️ pic.twitter.com/GRTCgZbnA7
— Barça Buzz (@Barca_Buzz) November 3, 2022
Gerard Pique has announced he will leave Barcelona. A decision hat will reportedly save the club about €42 million. Legend. pic.twitter.com/oj0EJHypse
— The Football Chatroom 🎙️ (@TFChatroom) November 3, 2022
Gerard Pique calls time on decorated career
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 Sir Alex Ferguson in 2008.
He then returned to Catalonia, helping Barca to eight La Liga crowns, seven Copa del Rey trophies 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's retirement news comes after Barca were for the second year in succession, knocked out of the group stages of the Champions League - with the club in the midst of a rebuild.
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.
A sporting icon in Spain, Pique had global celebrity status as the partner of Colombian pop star, Shakira.
They met during the filming of the video of Shakira's 2010 World Cup anthem Waka Waka, but announced their separation in June, sharing two children together.
Pique is also the founder of sports events company Kosmos, which was behind the controversial revamp of tennis' Davis Cup.
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