It certainly wasn’t the easiest of goodbyes, but Gerard Pique will be glad it ended the way he wanted.
The Spain and Barcelona legend said farewell to the Camp Nou, with tears, hugs, chants, a standing ovation, and almost a penalty.
Pique shocked football by announcing he was retiring from football, not at the end of the season, but when the World Cup begins.
In a video that sent shockwaves across European football, the 35-year-old called time on a glorious career that saw 35 trophies for club and country, literally winning it all.
No one expected the news so soon, but it summed up a character bigger than the game who has always done things his own way, and with fans turning on him this season, he knew it was time.
The former Manchester United defender could still play one last game against Osasuna before football stops for the World Cup, but that will be away in Pamplona, not at the stadium he’s called home since childhood.
Given the captain’s armband pre-match, Pique came out to ‘SEMPR3’ in the centre circle, the Spanish word for always, with his career long number stylised into it.
“They cheered him when he jumped on the field, and every time he touched the ball,” said Catalan TV3, and he almost had it in the net.
It was only six minutes until he could have said a scoring goodbye, when Robert Lewandowski offered him a penalty, only for the Polish striker to be told ‘no, no’.
LaLiga’s top scorer hit the ball off the post, which left manager Xavi with the only decision to instead give his World Cup winning teammate a fitting late substitution.
Between that though, Barcelona were in sublime form despite Ferran Torres’ wastefulness, beating Almeria 2-0 through Ousmane Dembele and Frenkie de Jong.
And there were even chants of ‘Piquenbauer’ in reference to the German defensive great Franz Beckenbauer, as the ball playing defender put on a clinic all the way up until the 85th minute.
Then he said goodbye as the tears began to flow, and as a testament to his legacy, he wasn’t the only one.
Xavi and Torres both looked sore-eyed as they hugged Pique leaving the Camp Nou for the last time, with TV3 summing up his stature.
“At the Camp Nou, he will never be there again as a player. When he returns, which he will, it will be with another job,” they wrote in reference to his presidential ambitions.
The current president, Joan Laporta, was one of 92,605 spectators who turned out for a routine win over Almeria which put Barca top, with the Camp Nou virtually at capacity for the first time this season, despite fans and the player having their differences.
The second-most attended LaLiga game this season saw 85,703 in attendance, but for Pique’s farewell, one of his biggest fans wasn’t able to make it.
Cesc Fabregas did still make his tribute though, leaving it until pre-match after clearly taking some time to put his thoughts together.
“Geri, it was certainly not an easy decision and it is still hard for me to imagine a Barca without you,” the Arsenal great wrote.
“No one better than you could have taught me why Barca is such a special club.
“You have always been very ambitious and you will continue to have success in future projects. You always do!
“You have been a great teammate, a leader, a friend and most of all a great person.
“As a footballer you have earned it all and you deserve an amazing farewell at our Camp Nou, where it was an honour for me to play alongside you.”
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