Puyol salutes retiring Pique: 'Few have defended the Barca shirt like you'

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Carles Puyol paid tribute to former Barcelona and Spain team-mate Gerard Pique, stating "few have defended the Barca shirt like you" after the centre-back announced he is to retire.

Pique will call time on his glittering playing career after Saturday's LaLiga clash with Almeria at Camp Nou, with his envious list of honours including eight domestic titles and three Champions Leagues crowns.

He endured a somewhat sour ending to his lengthy association with the Blaugrana, though, after falling down the pecking order under Xavi, while he was booed by home fans during the recent win over Villarreal.

Puyol partnered Pique in the heart of defence during one of the most successful periods in the club's history, including the treble-winning season of 2008-09, as well as Spain's World Cup glory in 2010.

The former Barca captain wrote on Twitter: "Thank you for everything, Geri. I am in shock. Many have been unfair to you, few have defended the Barca shirt like you.

"I can always say that I played alongside you, it was a privilege. I love you friend."

Pique has racked up a whopping 615 appearances for Barcelona across all competitions, with his tally only bettered by Lionel Messi (778), Xavi (767), Sergio Busquets (694) and Andres Iniesta (674).

The World Cup and European Championship winner also earned 102 international caps, making him one of just 13 players to reach triple figures for Spain.