The legendary centre-back played at Camp Nou for the final time on Saturday night, earning an emotional standing ovation when he was substituted.
Gerard Piqué had experienced countless memorable moments at the Spotify Camp Nou, but still, he was unprepared for this. When he was substituted off in the 85th minute of FC Barcelona’s 2-0 win over UD Almería, his last act as a Barça player on home turf, the entire stadium got to their feet to applaud him off the pitch, chanting his name at a deafening volume.
It was a fitting farewell for a player who became an FC Barcelona member the day he was born, a player whose blood ran through the club and who had worn the shirt for a decade and a half and won everything there was to win, again and again.
Piqué’s decision to retire from football aged 35, announced only two days earlier, had left the football world in shock. Then again, he had said in 2020 that he would be the first player to step away once he knew the time was right when he knew he could no longer offer what FC Barcelona demanded of him.
Pique’s career at FC Barcelona
Gerard Piqué is bringing his time at FC Barcelona to an end. After 615 games, 52 goals scored and 30 titles with Barça, the defender says goodbye as a one-club man.
That moment has finally come in a season in which he had to accept an unfamiliar role as a substitute after the club looked to the future by signing young defenders in the transfer market. Piqué had chosen to stay and fight for his place but, after four months of struggling to hold down a place in the starting XI, he felt that time had come.
“Sometimes, loving is letting go,” Piqué said in his farewell speech, held after the victory, on the Spotify Camp Nou pitch and in between tears. “After a relationship of such love and passion, I think it was the moment to leave some space, to get some air.”
The 2-0 win was the perfect way for the defender to sign off from his incredible career with Barça, helping the team keep a clean sheet and collect three more points to boost their LaLiga Santander title bid. He even came close to scoring, sending a header just over the bar.
Piqué says “see you later”, not “goodbye”
Piqué already hinted in his retirement announcement video that he does not plan on staying away from Barça for too long. When speaking on the pitch on Saturday, he insisted that he’ll remain linked to the Blaugrana.
“It’s not a goodbye,” he told the crowd. “My grandfather made me a club member. I was born here and I will die here.”
An incredible FC Barcelona career
The centre-back leaves Barça as the club’s fifth-highest appearance maker of all time, on 616 appearances, and he lifted 18 major trophies, in addition to the 2010 World Cup and 2012 European Championship with Spain.
And he was an integral part of every one of those trophies wins. His ability on the ball made him the missing piece Barça needed to play the brand of high-pressing possession football they perfected under Pep Guardiola and then adapted under Tito Vilanova, Luis Enrique, Ernesto Valverde, Quique Setién and Ronald Koeman, with the trophies continuing to flow.
Piqué was always able to adapt, from the moment he returned to Barça in 2008 despite having played little for Manchester United in his four years away.
His first centre-back partner was Carles Puyol, who acted as an older brother to him, guiding him on the pitch as well as off it. But Piqué also had an impact on his more experienced teammate, teaching him to relax more and embrace his more mischievous side.
He had an excellent understanding too with Javier Mascherano, helping El Jefecito transition from holding midfielder to centre-back. When the Argentine left, Barça struggled to find a consistent centre-back pairing but Piqué remained one of the first names on the team sheet, be it alongside Samuel Umtiti, Clement Lenglet or Ronald Araújo.
“We need people like him in the team, he leaves a huge legacy of leadership and personality,” said Xavi Hernández, Piqué’s teammate for so many of those glorious years and then his final coach at the club. “He will take the love the fans showed him tonight to the grave. He is history, he is a legend and he has earned that love.”