Xavi on Pique retirement: I understand, it is normal to step to the side

Xavi on Pique retirement: I understand, it is normal to step to the side

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Pique will play his final game at Camp Nou against Almeria on Saturday

Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez said he understood Gerard Pique's decision to call time on his career as a footballer.

Pique, 35, announced on Thursday that Saturday's match against Almeria will be his last at Camp Nou, with Barça's trio to Osasuna to be his last a professional.

Xavi said the decision came after Pique felt he lost importance at the club and that the two had held a difficult conversation in the summer.

Here's what Xavi said on Pique in Friday's Camp Nou press conference. On Pique's decision: "The Almeria game will be conditioned by Pique's goodbye. He deserves all the praise that comes his way. I have been lucky enough to be his teammate and now his coach. Circumstances have led him to take this decision. I understand them. I passed through a similar situation and it is normal to step to the side. He was not playing regularly and he didn't feel as important. He had a contract and decided to leave it, which is a sign of his greatness. He has done everything here, is one of the best centre-backs ever and his decision is respected. He earned the right to decide and is a club legend and he deserves to be remembered as such."

Talk with Pique in preseason: "We spoke in the summer and I told him my intentions for the season. It was one of the most difficult moments in my coaching career having that conversation. He was my teammate and we have all been through this, when you reach a moment when you no longer feel useful. It's hard to manage."

His role in Pique retirement: "It's not nice making these decisions but I have to make calls for the best of the team. Many times I have felt that I should pick someone else ahead of him and it has hurt, but I have to look out for the team. It's not easy. I don't know if fair, but I have always been sincere and honest with him. He has remained an example for everyone, never a bad attitude, always training 100%... but the circumstances have led him to call time [on his career]."

Pique's strengths: "Brave, competitive, a winner, not afraid of anything. He is intelligent. He commits to what he is doing. He has been a good teammate and a good captain. I have no complaints. There is nothing personal, the relationship is still good, it's just a football issue."

Pique president? "He can be whatever he wants."

Pique Barca's best? "There is also Migueli and Puyol ... I don't want to forget anyone, but Pique is one of the best ever."

Pique among best centre-backs ever? "He's among them. There is Beckenbauer, Baresi... in England there has been John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, but Pique is up there with them."

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