On Saturday evening defender Gerard Piqué will play his last game for Barcelona against Almeria in La Liga at the Camp Nou. The 35-year-old made the announcement on social media, somewhat to the surprise of the club who had no forewarning of his intentions. However, having become fifth choice centre back and with stories in the press circulating about his wages given Barcelona’s financial problems, he has decided to quit on his own terms.
Still, he has much to be proud of as he looks back on what has been a glorious career.
Piqué came through the famous Barcelona “La Masia” academy but left before signing a professional contract with them to join Manchester United. Although he was only a fringe player during his time with the Premier League side, he did earn a Premier League winners medal and Champions League success during his time at Old Trafford.
Return to Barcelona
In 2008 Piqué returned to Barcelona for a fee believed to be around £5 million, and went on to form a centre-back partnership with Carlos Puyol for club and country that was one of the most effective in world football.
He would go on to play more than 600 games for the club and won 30 trophies with the Catalans. They included eight league titles, seven Spanish Cups, three Champions League trophies, and three FIFA Club World Cups.
On four occasions UEFA named him in their team of the year.
Piqué made his international debut for Spain in a friendly against England in February 2008 and would go on to play for his country 102 times, scoring five times.
He was an integral part of the team that won the World Cup for the first time in their history in 2010, beating the Netherlands in the final in South Africa. And two years later, he helped them successfully defend the European Championship crown that they had won four years earlier.
He also played for the unofficial Catalonia side – they do not have FIFA recognition – and captained them to a win over Venezuela.
Like a number of players who play their football in Spain, Piqué has fallen foul of the country’s tax authorities over image rights. A Spanish court in 2019 ordered him to pay a fine of £1.9 million over undeclared income from image rights between 2008 and 2010.
During the global pandemic, Piqué, along with the rest of his Barcelona teammates, agreed to defer a large part of their wages to help the club cope with the loss of revenue whilst the stadium was shut and they were forced to play games behind closed doors. Much of this money is still owed to him.
Barcelona’s financial crisis
Barcelona’s financial problems have been well documented with the club accruing debts of more than £1 billion under former president Josep Maria Bartomeu. That led, among other things, to the departure of Lionel Messi from the club.
Although his successor, Joan Laporta has been able to alleviate the situation by activating so-called “economic levers” (effectively mortgaging the club’s future), many players have been asked to take wage cuts to help the club, including Piqué.
At the same time, stories began to be leaked to the Catalan press about how much certain Barcelona players were making, causing something of a backlash from the club’s members.
Relations with Laporta became increasingly strained, and, although manager Xavi is a former teammate of his, there appears to be no love lost between the pair, and he would only play the defender when he had no other fit alternatives.
Piqué does not need the money
In retiring now, Piqué is effectively forgoing £35 million that he would have earned if he had seen out his current contract (although he still expects to be paid his deferred wages).
Not that he needs the money, having become a highly successful businessman. He is the founder and chairman of Kosmos Tennis which entered into a highly lucrative partnership with the International Tennis Federation in 2018 to revitalise the Davis Cup.
He also owns the Spanish second division club Andorra and has invested in an esports team.
He wants to come back as Barcelona president
Although he may be about to hang up his boots, Piqué is by no means finished with Barcelona and he has ambitions one day to return as club president.
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