Another Barcelona legend is heading for the Camp Nou exit door after Gerard Pique announced he is set to retire after this weekend’s LaLiga clash with Almeria at the age of 35.
Widely considered one of the best defenders of his generation, Pique is also one of the most decorated with the World Cup, Champions League and European Championship among his envious list of honours, which also includes eight LaLiga titles.
The centre-half has racked up a whopping 615 appearances for Barcelona across all competitions, while his international cap tally with Spain also surpassed triple figures.
Pique has fallen down the Blaugrana pecking order in recent times and was booed by the home fans at Camp Nou during the 3-0 win over Villarreal last month, with head coach Xavi and former team-mate Andres Iniesta leaping to his defence.
But despite a somewhat sour ending to his lengthy association with Barca, Pique remains an integral figure in arguably the greatest period in the club’s history. Here, we take a closer look at some of his career highlights.
The 2008-09 Treble
Though he progressed through Barcelona’s youth ranks, Pique departed for Manchester United in 2004, only to return to the Blaugrana four years later.
One of the first signings of the Pep Guardiola era, he would form a wonderful partnership alongside veteran Carles Puyol in the heart of defence, while notably scoring during the memorable 6-2 rout of Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu.
Pique racked up 45 appearances across all competitions during his maiden season as Barca became the first Spanish side to win the treble after landing the LaLiga, Copa del Rey and Champions League titles.
World and European champion
Pique’s solid displays at club level culminated in a senior international debut during Spain’s 2-0 victory over England in February 2009.
He quickly established himself alongside Puyol as the reigning European champions’ first-choice centre-half, and started all seven matches the following year as La Roja secured their first World Cup triumph in South Africa.
Then, partnered with Sergio Ramos, Pique played every minute in Poland and Ukraine two years later as Vicente Del Bosque’s side completed a hat-trick of major international titles by successfully defending their European crown.
Having conceded just one goal in six games, he was one of three Spain players named in the UEFA Team of the Tournament.
The 2014-15 Treble
Pique endured his first trophyless season at Barca under Tata Martino in 2013-14 — the Blaugrana conceding the LaLiga title to Atletico Madrid following a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou on the final day of the campaign.
Nevertheless, the defender signed a new contract with the club who, under the new guidance of Luis Enrique, regained their domestic crown with a match to spare, before capturing the Copa del Rey with victory over Athletic Bilbao.
The Catalan Giants then put Juventus to the sword 3-1 in the Champions League showpiece to become the first team to win the treble twice; Pique among a handful of players involved in both sides.
Spanish dominance on the international stage eventually came to an end following early World Cup exits in 2014 and 2018, as well as Euro 2016.
Nevertheless, Pique remained an integral part of the side and reached a significant milestone during the 2018 finals, earning his 100th cap as La Roja beat Iran 1-0.
The defender, who retired from international duty after defeat by Russia in the last 16, remains one of only 13 Spanish players to reach triple figures.
600 up for Barca
Despite taking his LaLiga title tally to eight, Pique’s final few seasons at Barca have been blighted by injury, while he has also fallen down the pecking order under former team-mate Xavi.
However, the centre-half continued to clock up the career milestones, including his 600th Blaugrana appearance during the 4-0 win over Osasuna in March.
Pique became the fifth player — and first defender — to reach that mark for the club, after Lionel Messi (778), Xavi (767), Sergio Busquets (694) and Andres Iniesta (674).