Legendary Spain and Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has surprisingly announced his immediate retirement from soccer.
Pique, 35, says Saturday’s match against Almeria in LaLiga will be his last at Camp Nou for the Catalan club after 14 years in the first team following his return from Manchester United in 2008.
“Football has given me everything,” he said. “Barcelona has given me everything. You, culers (Barcelona fans), have given me everything,” Pique said in an announcement on social media.
“And now that [this] kid’s dreams have come true, I want to tell you that I’ve decided that now is the time to bring this journey to its end.”
Barca then travel to Osasuna next week for their final fixture before the World Cup in Qatar.
Pique, who won 102 caps for Spain and helped them to victory in the 2010 World Cup, has become a peripheral figure for Barcelona this season, making only five starts.
“The last few weeks, months, people have been talking about me,” Pique said in the video posted across social media. “Until now, I have not said anything, but now I want to be the one who is talking about me.
“Like many of you, I have always been a Barcelona fan. I was born into a football-loving family. From a very young age, I did not want to become a footballer, I wanted to play for Barca.
“Recently, I have thought a lot about that kid. If he had been told he would fulfil all his dreams — that he would play for Barca, that he would win every trophy possible, that he would be a European and world champion.
“I have always said that after Barcelona there will be no other team, and that is how it will be. This Saturday’s game will be my last at Camp Nou.
“I will become a regular fan, I will support the team and transmit my love for the club to my kids, like my family did with me. And you know me, sooner or later I will be back. See you at Camp Nou. Visca Barca, always and forever.”
Following his decision to bring his playing career to an end, Barcelona described Pique – who was born in the city and whose grandfather was on the club’s board – as a “member since birth”.
After four years at Manchester United, which included a season-long loan back in Spain with Real Zaragoza, and 23 first-team appearances for the English side, he returned to Barca in 2008.
Pique won the League Cup, Premier League and Champions League under Sir Alex Ferguson and eventually returned to Barcelona under the newly-appointed Pep Guardiola.
Under Pep Guardiola, he was part of the side that won the treble in the 2008-09 season, and he will depart having won eight LaLiga titles and three Champions Leagues, among many other trophies.
Pique was ever-present in his first 14 seasons with the first team but has fallen down the pecking order this year since the signing of centre-backs Andreas Christensen and Jules Kounde.
The 35-year-old was also central to Spain’s success and played every minute of the 2010 World Cup final win over the Netherlands and the 2012 Euros victory against Italy, before ending his international career after the 2018 World Cup.