'It was an honour' - Guardiola pays tribute to Pique after Barca defender announces retirement

LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images

Pep Guardiola has described coaching Gerard Pique as "an honour" after the Spain international announced his decision to retire from football.

Pique revealed in a video on social media on Thursday that he will make his final appearance for Barcelona against Almeria at Camp Nou on Saturday before hanging up his boots.

The 35-year-old played under Guardiola for four seasons at Barca between 2008 and 2012.

"It was surprising news," Guardiola admitted at a press conference ahead of Manchester City's Premier League clash with Fulham.

"After making an incredible career in Barcelona, I wish him personally all the best for him and his family.

"He was a player for the big games, never once missing or behave [badly] or have a performance not in the highest level. That is what all the big clubs need, these kind of players.

"He won everything for Barcelona and Spain. The time arrives, the future will be bright, he's a smart guy.

"It was an honour for me personally to be his manager, and we spent an incredible four years together."

Pique will retire as a Barca legend, with only four players making more appearances for the club than his 614.

Those are Lionel Messi (778), Xavi (767), Sergio Busquets (694) and Andres Iniesta (674) - all of whom helped form part of the dominant Barca team in the 2010s alongside Pique.

He lifted 30 titles with the club in what was the most successful period in Barca's history, and Guardiola refused to be drawn on possible comparisons with any of his players at Man City.

"[It is] not about comparing, when you compare these things, someone is damaged," he said. "If you ask me my best full-back as manager, it would be unfair because everyone is everyone.

"All I will say is Gerard is a happy man in his life, he said in the video perfectly 'I don't want to be a football player, I want to be a Barcelona player'. It was his dream and his dream came true.

"Being there In the tough moments, the big important games, final of the Champions League or World Cup finals, derbies against [Real] Madrid, Atletico, Sevilla, Espanyol, always [he] was there.

"Of course his career had ups and downs, every player is like that. We knew in the locker room how his personality was important and in the big games always was the best."