Xavi admits harrowing Pique talks prompted Barcelona great to retire

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Xavi accepts he "played an important part" in Gerard Pique deciding to retire after downscaling the defender's first-team role at Barcelona this season.

The head coach revealed he went through "some of the most difficult moments" of his career when he made the decisions during the off-season that have spurred his former team-mate to quit.

Pique, a Barcelona great who won eight LaLiga titles and the Champions League three times with the club, is set to play his last Camp Nou match on Saturday when Almeria are the visitors.

The 35-year-old will then be available for the match at Osasuna on Tuesday, according to Xavi, but will put a full stop to his playing career after that.

Xavi said coaching friends can make his role "unpleasant" when big decisions have to be made, and he called on Barcelona supporters to give Pique a rousing send-off.

It should not be taken as a given that Pique would start the Almeria game, Xavi said, but he seems certain to appear at some stage.

"He deserves all the love of the Barca fans," Xavi told a press conference on Friday. "I've known him as a team-mate and as a coach, and what he's decided, to put a full stop to his career, I understand completely due to the circumstances.

"He feels less responsible, less useful. I was in that position, too, and the normal thing is you take a step aside.

"He's got a contract and could easily continue with the club, but he's shown great professionalism by stepping aside, and I wish him all the best. The Barca fans should value him as he is, as a legend of the club.

"We had a conversation ahead of the season. I communicated my intentions. It was a private conversation. It was some of the most difficult moments of my career, speaking with Gerard this summer.

"As a friend of him, I love him a lot and hold him in high esteem, but it's something that happens to all of us. You arrive at a moment where you're not so important or useful for the team.

"You feel badly. I had to go through the circumstances, and it's difficult to manage this.

"I played an important part. I decided the best for the team, the institution. I have to make these decisions. It's a very difficult role where you don't receive a lot of gratitude, but I have to do the best for the team and for the club.

"I was honest with him in every moment over the summer, and the circumstances have helped him decide he'll put an end to his career."

Xavi hinted that Pique was far from happy about being pushed to the fringes of the first team.

"I tried to be honest. The player always feels when you're not wanted very much and don't play very much, the one to blame is the coach," Xavi said.

"You have to live with that, that's my work. It's an unpleasant job sometimes, having to take decisions like this with former team-mates like Pique and Dani Alves, and these are situations that aren't easy to manage."

Only four players have featured in more games for Barca than Pique, who has 614 appearances. Those ahead of him are Lionel Messi (778), Xavi (767), Sergio Busquets (694) and Andres Iniesta (674) – all of whom formed part of a great Barcelona team in the late 2000s and into the 2010s.

"He's won everything here," Xavi said. "He's been one of the best centre-backs in history, and whatever decision he makes is to be respected 100 per cent. He's got every right to choose how and when."