Gerard Pique has played his final match at Camp Nou after leaving the pitch in the 85th minute against Almeria. Barcelona won the match 2-0, but it felt like almost an aside as Pique received the constant applause and gratitude from the stadium he has called home for the last 14 years.
For the first time since he arrived back at Barcelona from Manchester United, Pique has not been first choice in central defence, only coming into the side when an injury crisis hit Barcelona. In addition to that new battle to deal with, there was significant pressure from the ‘entorno’ at Barcelona to leave in order to free the club from the many millions he was due over the next two seasons.
“The truth is that I had not dreamed of an ending like this. I had never thought of leaving. I always thought ‘one more year’. Things happen in a certain way. I have always been very clear with myself. To see if it was working or not. These six months have been very difficult and I think that has been seen.”
“Today has been a liberation. To be able to play from the beginning, in front of the people, to do it like that… I take this unforgettable memory with me. Life goes on and on to the next stage” .
Pique then explained that he would be taking a break – before returning. The expectation is that sooner or later, Pique will run for and become president of the club.
“Now a spectrum of a thousand things opens up. I have to organise myself a bit. I think this is my home. I was born here and I will return. It was time to part ways for a while. We will return with more strength. [Now I will] Enjoy with my family, my friends. After Pamplona, I’ll go on holiday to disconnect.”
Again though he went back to describing the relief of it all ending. Although Pique did at least manage to get a send off at Camp Nou, once more it feels as though a Barcelona legend is being forced out of the club rather than leaving at the right time for them.
“During the change I thought I was taking a weight off my shoulders. The last few months have not been easy. I am left with the satisfaction that I have given everything. Competing and playing I have always tried to give everything. Some days it goes worse or better, but I’ve given everything. That makes me feel proud. I’m leaving calm, happy, and with my homework done.”