“He deserves all the love of the Barca fans”- Xavi reacts to Pique’s retirement

After reducing Gerard Pique’s first-team position at Barcelona this season, manager, Xavi admits he “played an important role” in his decision to retire.

The head coach admitted he went through “some of the most difficult moments” of his career when he made the off-season decisions that prompted his former teammate to resign.

Pique, a Barcelona legend who won eight La Liga crowns and three Champions Leagues with the club, will play his final Camp Nou match on Saturday against Almeria.

According to Xavi, the 35-year-old will be eligible for the encounter against Osasuna on Tuesday, but will subsequently end his playing career.

When significant decisions must be made, Xavi said coaching friends may make his job “unpleasant,” and he urged Barcelona fans to give Pique a rousing send-off.

Pique should not be expected to start the Almeria game, according to Xavi, although he is expected to appear at some point.

Xavi’s reaction

“He deserves all the love of the Barca fans,” Xavi told a press conference on Friday. “I’ve known him as a team-mate and as a coach, and what he’s decided, to put a full stop to his career, I understand completely due to the circumstances.

“He feels less responsible, less useful. I was in that position, too, and the normal thing is you take a step aside.

“He’s got a contract and could easily continue with the club, but he’s shown great professionalism by stepping aside, and I wish him all the best. The Barca fans should value him as he is, as a legend of the club.

“We had a conversation ahead of the season. I communicated my intentions. It was a private conversation. It was some of the most difficult moments of my career, speaking with Gerard this summer.

“As a friend of him, I love him a lot and hold him in high esteem, but it’s something that happens to all of us. You arrive at a moment where you’re not so important or useful for the team.

“You feel badly. I had to go through the circumstances, and it’s difficult to manage this.

“I played an important part. I decided the best for the team, the institution. I have to make these decisions. It’s a very difficult role where you don’t receive a lot of gratitude, but I have to do the best for the team and for the club.

“I was honest with him in every moment over the summer, and the circumstances have helped him decide he’ll put an end to his career.”

Xavi hinted that Pique was far from happy about being pushed to the fringes of the first team.

“I tried to be honest. The player always feels when you’re not wanted very much and don’t play very much, the one to blame is the coach,” Xavi said.

“You have to live with that, that’s my work. It’s an unpleasant job sometimes, having to take decisions like this with former team-mates like Pique and Dani Alves, and these are situations that aren’t easy to manage.”

Only four players have appeared in more games for Barcelona than Pique (614). Lionel Messi (778), Xavi (767), Sergio Busquets (694) and Andres Iniesta (674) are the players ahead of him, all of whom were part of a great Barcelona team in the late 2000s and early 2010s.

“He’s won everything here,” Xavi said. “He’s been one of the best centre-backs in history, and whatever decision he makes is to be respected 100 per cent. He’s got every right to choose how and when.”

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