Gerard Pique broke down in tears as he gave an emotional speech after playing his final game at Camp Nou for Barcelona in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Almeria.
Pique, 35, promised he would be back at the club in some capacity in the future but said that sometimes loving something so much means you have to know when to let go.
The defender captained Barca on his 616th appearance for the club against Almeria — playing 83 minutes before being substituted to a standing ovation — and could make one more before retirement when Xavi Hernandez’s side travel to Osasuna on Tuesday before LaLiga breaks for the World Cup.
“In life, as you grow older, sometimes to love is to let go,” said Pique, before he started to cry as he spoke in the middle of the Camp Nou pitch after performing a lap of honour.
“A relationship of so much love, so much passion, I think it is the moment to give ourselves some space. That is why I think it is the right moment to go, because I love this club.
“I am convinced that I will be back in the future. This is not a goodbye, I left when I was 17 [for Manchester United] and I came back. My grandad made me a member when I was born. I was born here and I will die here.”
A season-high crowd of 92,605 attended the game, Barca’s highest attendance since the 2019 Clasico (93,426), to say goodbye to Pique, who has won 30 trophies during 14 years with the first team.
The majority of his touches were cheered throughout the game, his name was chanted at regular intervals and supporters even encouraged him to take a first-half penalty, which was missed by Robert Lewandowski.
Pique’s emotional goodbye shows what he meant to fans as Barcelona climb in LaLiga
“I had not dreamed of this ending because I had never thought about leaving,” Pique later told DAZN of the amazing treatment he received from supporters.
“I wasn’t thinking about retirement. I was always saying one more year. But things happen and you have to make a decision. I have always been clear with myself. These six months have been really difficult and today has felt like liberation. I was able to say goodbye how I wanted.
“It’s a weight off my shoulders. Recent months have not been easy. Always competing, playing and giving everything, but sometimes it comes off and sometimes it doesn’t, as is the case for everyone. But I am proud. I leave happy.”