Behind the scenes of Gerard Piqué's unexpected retirement: the short circuits with Xavi Hernández and the “dagger” of the Barcelona public

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The defender ended his career at the age of 35. Beyond the media impact generated by his scandalous separation from Shakira, friction and differences at the Camp Nou had become commonplace

Behind the scenes of Gerard Piqué's unexpected retirement: the short circuits with Xavi Hernández and the “dagger” of the Barcelona public

By

Sergio Levinsky

Behind the scenes of Gerard Piqué's unexpected retirement: the short circuits with Xavi Hernández and the “dagger” Barcelona public

Piqué and Xavi Hernández debate in the middle of the field of play. The relationship had worn out (EFE/Quique García)

“I'm staying to fight it and all those signings they brought are going to be left behind because I'm going to keep the starting job, since I'm much better than them. And you know it well, ”he told him, sure of himself, but angry at the same time, Gerard Piqué to a serene Xavi Hernández in a meeting alone, this past summer in Europe, when the now technical director and former partner of his in the glory days at Fútbol Club Barcelona He conveyed that he did not have it in his plans and suggested that he find a club.

As he said in the video of the announcement of his retirement next Saturday at the Camp Nou against Almería for the Spanish League, Piqué repeated two concepts that he had maintained for years: that he would not play for any other team other than Fútbol Club Barcelona (not even in Andorra, of which it controls 90 percent of the shares and which has just been promoted to Segunda, one category ahead of Barcelona B), due to lack of motivation, and that it will return to the Catalan club, surely with the intention of being president in the future.

This idea that goes back a long way in Piqué and his excessive protagonism never liked the coach, Xavi Hernández, of whom the board of directors of Barcelona, ​​tired with the defender's exposure, doubted whether he would be able, especially since this season and with the new reinforcements, to take on his former teammates Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, given that the directors consider that They have already completed a cycle and not only that, but they charge too much money, much more than what is paid in the Spanish football market.

The Barcelona leadership believes that Piqué, Busquets (who is a foot and a half out of the club when this season ends to emigrate to MLS) and Alba do not want to leave their comfort zone and have already threatened to go to court, after speaking with their agents to try to convince them in vain that those increases they were given during the previous mandate of Josep María Bartomeu should be considered invalid and return to a “reasonable” figure, the same situation as with the Dutchman Frenkie De Jong, who resisted and did not want to leave to Manchester United.

It is not by chance, then, that at the beginning of this season the four (Piqué, Busquets, Alba and De Jong) have been relieved and have been losing their place in the first team, although the confrontation with Piqué was much greater .

The situation came to a head last September, when Xavi's three former teammates all went to the substitutes' bench in the 3-0 win against Elche, and none of them entered during the ninety minutes. Days before, a new discussion had been leaked, shouting, between the DT and Piqué, the umpteenth of the season (although always made up by mutual praise before cameras and microphones). “I don't even play petanque” (very similar to bowls), complained the defender, something that annoyed the DT: “Well, unless you're going to play”, replied.

Xavi had been clear, not only with himself but also with the press, since the start of the current season. “I already spoke with him before the holidays. He is a footballer who can help us from another role, ”he said then to the media. It was very clear: he did not count on him, although he did not want to be drastic and also, as his contract (signed in 2020) had just ended in 2024 – although with a clause that said that if he did not play 35 percent of the games, he could leave -, he could not be kicked out, and letting him go was untidy for a player who gave so much to the club and that meant paying him everything that was owed to him when he had agreed to postpone part of the total for the following years to partially alleviate the club's situation .

In turn, the leaders tried to point out to Xavi some statements that Pique had made in 2021, when the decline was already beginning, and that he now seemed to forget: “We have hit rock bottom with the Barca. If I have to leave for new blood to come, I'll leave” or “I'll retire at Barça, but never as a substitute”.

At this point, the leadership of Barcelona took Piqué's pulse once Xavi was relegating him from the starting lineup: “Let's see if he dares to do what he promised. It is time to check it out ”, but deep down, nobody expected that he would actually comply, especially since the player made the leaders understand that he was in the mood to continue. In total, so far, the defender has only played 554 minutes in nine games.

As for his idea of ​​being president of Barcelona in the future, the phrase “I'll be back early” doesn't seem casual either. Piqué has already referred to this possibility more than once in the past: “I am very culé and I would like to help the club of my loves,” he said on occasion, but added that “this is done by being very prepared to hold this position if I think I can contribute things. It's something I've always wanted.” But other times he sowed doubts with his statements: “There are days that I do see myself as president of Barça, and others that I don't. You have to have a great love for the club. It is a great sacrifice. You have to make a guarantee for 150 million euros. But there is no point in being president if you don't love the club” and he speculated that “he would make a more modern club. I would change a lot of things about the team. I would send the whole environment to fuck, they are toxic. And whoever feels singled out as an environment, to fuck.”

These phrases no longer liked the board of directors, who knew that for many, Piqué was considered shadow president when he got the sponsorship agreement with the Japanese brand “Rakuten” or with the organization of the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia, or when appearing complaining about the arbitrations against Barcelona before the president of the Spanish Federation, Luis Rubiales.

Gerard Piqué Bernabeu (born in Barcelona on February 2, 1987) is not just another player. He never was. Born in a “golden cradle”, he is the son of the lawyer and intellectual Joan Piqué and Montserrat Bernabeu, head of the Brain Injury unit at the Guttmann Institute Hospital in Barcelona, ​​and grandson of Amador Bernabeu, former vice president of Barcelona and delegate to the Royal Federation Spanish Football.

With a training above the average of football players, he was educated at the “Ashton on Mersey School” and at the traditional Lasalle school in the Bonanova neighborhood, and it was not surprising that due to his relationships and knowledge he ended up being a successful businessman who covers several areas, from gastronomy to e-sports (since 2021 he is co-owner, together with influencer Ibaí Llanos, of the “KOI” team), although the best-known brand is “Kosmos”, dedicated to the organization of sporting events such as the Davis Cup, in a new format devised for its structure, or the controversial Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia, which appeared in the midst of the scandal due to the dissemination of private dialogues that the player had with the president of the Spanish Federation, Luis Rubiales , about the collection of commissions.

Precisely in “Kosmos” he met his girlfriend, Clara Chía Martí, who was an employee at the company and which led to the announced separation of the singer < b>Shakira last June after twelve years of relationship (they met in the middle of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, which Piqué won with the Spanish team) and which resulted in two children, Milan and Shasha.

The high exposure with his suit and briefcase activities, away from the shorts to play on a court, were generating problems for him. Criticism about his lack of focus on his status as an athlete was on the rise, and it is the topic that his former teammate Xavi introduced to him when he told him last summer that he would not take it into account and that he would have several central markers ahead of him, although Piqué decided to keep a low profile, train like he hadn't done for years, hardly appear in the media, and seemed to be gaining ground again thanks to the huge number of injuries the team suffered (Ronald Araujo, Koundé, Andreas Christensen).

However, although he always maintained his great technical conditions that led him to win thirty titles with the Barça shirt, as well as a World Cup and a European Championship with Spain, he was slow for long balls and for coordination with his teammates behind and along with Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, the three survivors of the glory stages of Josep Guardiola's times, were blamed for the team's poor results and lack of titles in recent years, and in his case, for the jerks with the leaders so that he would accept new salary cuts so that the numbers would balance in the economic Fair Play of the League and be able to hire more players for the squad.

Piqué, the fifth player with the most appearances in the history of Barcelona (615 and 52 goals) behind Lionel Messi (778), Xavi Hernández (767), Sergio Busquets (689) and Andrés Iniesta (674), and played three World Cups (2010, 2014 and 2018), two Confederations Cups (2009 and 2013) and two Euro Cups (2012 and 2016), began to be slowly whistled by the public in the Camp Nou matches, although the noise became louder when in The decisive Champions League match against Inter did not stand against the Argentine Lautaro Martínez, with a 3-3 draw that ended up costing another elimination for the Catalans from the biggest continental tournament. Now without chances, he entered against Bayern Munich in a 0-3 defeat and there the whistle was thunderous, only covered by the “Animation Stand” behind one of the goals, who tried to sing in his support “Piqué/Piqué/Piqué/Pickenbauer”.

At the end of the game with Inter, Xavi's annoyance with Piqué was evident and rarely was it so resounding in front of the microphones: “ We have made many mistakes. The first goal is a very clear error in the defensive line, and the second, too. We deserved more, but it's the Champions League and it's about defending well, not just attacking”.

Piqué, as he says in the video, was always identified with Barcelona. “When he was little he didn't want to be a footballer but a Barça player”. He confesses in an emotional moment, with images of when he was little and wore the Barça shirt, something that he also stated in his only book, “A Round Trip” published in 2010: “It is incredible when I stop to think and I remember that when I was ten or eleven years old I was waiting in the Camp Nou box for the players to leave after the match. They were my idols. Luis Figo, Luis Enrique, Pep, etc., came out, and I had the feeling that they were untouchable. I saw them go by and I didn't dare to say anything to them…”.

He arrived at Barcelona in 1997, at the age of ten, in the Alevín B category and later joined a remembered youth team, “La Máquina del 87” together with Lionel Messi, Cesc Fábregas, Marc Valiente, Marc Pedraza and Víctor Vázquez, who devastated their rivals, but his first professional contract was signed in 2005 at Manchester United, where he was managed by Sir Alex Ferguson and had Cristiano Ronaldo as a partner. In 2006 he was loaned for a season to Zaragoza, where he formed a defense with Gabriel Milito and they achieved sixth position in the League and qualification for the UEFA Cup (today the Europa League) and in 2007 he returned to Manchester United, already with continuity, and won the Premier League. Already in 2008 he was rescued by Josep Guardiola for his successful return to Barcelona, ​​where he replaced the one he considers his “master”, the Mexican Rafa Márquez (today coach of Barcelona B).

< b>Piqué's decision surprised the leaders of Barcelona, ​​who did not know about this immediate step, but not the dressing room, who had known the information for days. It was no coincidence that he made a video to publicize the news, as he had already done with some former teammates in similar circumstances, such as in “The Decision”, when Frenchman Antoine Griezmann, just before the 2018 World Cup in Russia, had to communicate if He was still at Atlético Madrid or he was going to Barcelona, ​​and at that time he preferred the former, despite having the welcome of the then Barça captains, Messi and Piqué himself.

A year earlier, the defender-businessman put together another video when the football world was waiting to find out if Neymar would stay at Barcelona or go to PSG. “It stays”, Piqué then recorded, but the passing of days proved otherwise. His friend David Broncano, well-known host of the television show “La Resistencia”, to which Piqué regularly attends, used social networks when he learned of the defender's retirement to say “He will not stay” and “we are going to miss you”.

The Champions League Twitter channel said goodbye to the player with a video of his best moments as a player and with the message: “ Gerard Piqué, legend of the Champions League” and the former World Cup and Real Madrid player Fernando Hierro affirmed that he and Sergio Ramos “have been the two best centre-backs in the world”. The Barcelona Football Club published his photo and a short text that says “A whole life dedicated to Barca. Thank you, Piqué”, and the FIFA World Cup account did the same with another image showing the defender kissing the 2010 World Cup.

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