Barcelona’s Gerard Pique announces sudden retirement

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has announced he will retire from football when the Spanish league begins World Cup play this month.

Pique, 35, says Saturday’s game against Almeria in LaLiga will be his last at the Camp Nou for the Catalan club after 14 years in the first team since returning from Manchester United in 2008.

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Barca then travel to Osasuna next week for the final match before the World Cup in Qatar.

“For the last few weeks, months, people have been talking about me,” Pique said in a video posted on social media. “Until now I haven’t said anything, but now I want to be the one talking about me.

“Like many of you, I have always been a Barcelona fan. I was born in a family that loves football. From a young age, I didn’t want to become a footballer, I wanted to play for Barça.

“I’ve been thinking about that kid a lot lately. That he was told that he would fulfill all his dreams – that he would play for Barça, that he would win every possible trophy, that he would be the champion of Europe and the world.

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“That he will play with the best players in history, that he will become one of the captains of the team… Football has given me everything. You, the fans, have given me everything. And now my childhood dreams have come true, I want to tell you that I decided that now is the time to bring this journey to an end.

“I’ve always said that after Barcelona there won’t be another team, and that’s how it will be. This Saturday will be my last game at Camp Nou.

“I will become a regular fan, support the team and pass on my love for the club to my children, as my family did with me. And you know me, sooner or later I will be back. See you at the Camp Nou. Visca Barca, always and forever.”

Pique’s grandfather was on the Barcelona board and Pique joined the club’s academy in 1997 before leaving for Man United in 2004.

After four years in Manchester, which included a season-long loan spell in Spain at Real Zaragoza, and 23 first-team appearances for the English side, he returned to Barca in 2008.

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Under Pep Guardiola, he was part of the trophy-winning side in 2008-09, and will leave having won eight La Liga titles and three Champions Leagues, among many other trophies.

He also won the 2010 World Cup and 2012 European Championship during a nine-year career with Spain, during which he earned 102 caps before retiring from international football after the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Pique was a constant presence in his first 14 seasons with the first team, but has fallen down the pecking order this year since the signings of centre-backs Andreas Christensen and Jules Kounde.

Despite being fifth choice in his position, with Ronaldo Araujo and Eric Garcia ahead of him, Pique has made nine appearances in all competitions so far this season due to injuries elsewhere.

However, after a 3-3 draw with Inter Milan last month, when Pique was sent off for criticism, left-back Marcos Alonso was used ahead of him in defence, prompting him to consider a mid-season retirement despite having a contract until 2024. years.

Barca told Pique in the summer that minutes would be difficult to come by this season as they wanted to either move on or take a pay cut for some veterans, including Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba.

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Pique, Busquets and Alba have all adjusted their wages and agreed to pay cuts and deferrals at various times in recent years to help the club cope with its difficult financial situation.

However, with deferred payments due, their wages take up a large chunk of Barca’s budget relative to how many minutes they have played under Xavi this season.

Sources contacted by ESPN could not immediately confirm whether Pique’s retirement meant he had agreed to waive the money owed to him or whether a deal had been reached with Barca.

Pique, who will turn 36 in January, already has a number of other interests outside of football. Through his company Kosmos, he renewed the Davis Cup tennis tournament, and he is also the owner of the second division team of Andorra.

He has previously said he plans to run for Barca president when he retires, although in recent years he has suggested that while it remains an option, it is not something he will definitely pursue.



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