Pep Guardiola's departure from Barcelona was influenced by his hostile relationship with then-Real Madrid head coach Jose Mourinho, according to Blaugrana defender Gerard Pique. 

Guardiola won 14 trophies – including three league titles and two Champions Leagues – in a four-year spell at Camp Nou, developing a legendary side featuring academy graduates including Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Pique.

However, Guardiola's final season at the helm saw the Catalan giants finish second to Los Blancos in LaLiga, as Mourinho's side broke the league's points tally record by earning 100 points in 2011-12, also scoring a yet-to-be-matched 121 league goals. The points tally was equalled by Tito Vilanova's Barcelona in the following season.

The two coaches clashed repeatedly after the Portuguese coach arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2010, and Pique believes the rivalry "got too much", contributing to Guardiola's decision to leave.

"We were winning everything at the time and I remember that the first time Mourinho came to Camp Nou he lost 5-0 against us [in November 2010]," Pique told Gary Neville on The Overlap. 

"It was a shock of reality that these guys are going hard, but in the press conferences every time he was… you know his style, I think that for Guardiola at some point it was too much.

"It was more important sometimes what happened off the pitch than on the pitch.

"Guardiola left. Madrid won the league that year and all of a sudden, he decided to leave for so many reasons, but I am sure part of it was because with Mourinho it got too much."

After Guardiola's Manchester City team fell to a stunning 6-5 Champions League semi-final defeat to Real Madrid earlier this month, he is tied with Mourinho as the two bosses with the most semi-final eliminations from the competition (six each), while the duo are also the two managers with the most wins in their first 100 Premier League games (both 73).

Pique claimed Mourinho's confrontational style also affected relationships between Barcelona and Madrid players in the Spain international set-up, despite the team winning three consecutive major tournaments between 2008 and 2012.

"Since he arrived, he knew that on the pitch they were weaker than us," Pique said of Mourinho's time with Madrid. "We had a better team for sure, and even the relationships between players [were better].

"I remember going to the national team, and after those games it was tough because Mourinho goes to the mind of the player and he says, 'These guys hate you', then you believe that.

"I was in the dressing room of the national team and said to [Madrid goalkeeper] Iker Casillas, 'Hey Iker', and the guy did not talk to me. At that time, I did not know, but it was the coach, he really knows how to go into the mind."

Asked whether Guardiola enjoyed the rivalry with Mourinho, Pique added: "I don't think so. I remember the semi-final of the Champions League in the Bernabeu [in 2011], he did an amazing press conference, but it was not about football.

"He enjoys talking about what is happening on the pitch, and here there was a moment where the press was focusing on what was happening outside the pitch."

Gerard Pique was left in tears following Lionel Messi's Barcelona exit, but the centre-back says he can understand why his former colleague joined Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi's 21-year association with Barcelona, 16 of those spent as part of the senior squad, came to an end last August when he signed for PSG as a free agent.

The Argentina international won every trophy available with Barca and departed as the club's all-time record scorer with 672 goals across 778 appearances.

Last year's departure came as a huge shock at the time, with the Catalan giants' financial situation meaning they could not agree fresh term under LaLiga's salary restrictions.

Pique and Messi came through Barca's La Masia academy together and spent 13 seasons as first-team regulars after the defender returned from a spell at Manchester United.

In an interview with former United team-mate Gary Neville, Pique opened up on just how tough he found it seeing his close friend move to another club.

"I cried when Messi left. I cried for him," Pique said on The Overlap podcast. "For the career he had at Barca, it would have been great if he had stayed until the end of his career.

"I can understand why he couldn't renew. The club was suffering a lot economically because of the past president and how he managed the club.

"At the end of the day, these are things that happen in life. Sometimes you make a decision and things don't work out.

"For Barcelona and the fans, Messi was like a god. It would have been great if he stayed."

 

Messi was directly involved in 937 goals for Barcelona, with his most prolific season coming in 2011-12 when scoring 73 goals in all competitions and assisting a further 28.

But while the record seven-time Ballon d'Or winner was very much the poster boy for Barca's trophy-laden period, Pique insists Messi could not have done it alone.

"Lionel Messi is the best player in the history of the game," he said.

"Messi was Barcelona's best player. I've always said that we had Messi to win titles, but we also had to have a good team. A single player cannot win titles."

Barcelona head coach Xavi labelled Ansu Fati a "special player" after handing the 19-year-old his first league appearance since November in a 2-1 win over Real Mallorca.

Fati entered the fray as a 75th-minute substitute as the Blaugrana recorded a crucial win in their bid to secure Champions League qualification, as goals from Memphis Depay and Sergio Busquets moved Barca into second place in LaLiga, nine points clear of fifth-placed Real Betis.

Fati has recorded 14 goals and one assist in 37 appearances in LaLiga since making his Barca debut in 2019, but he has suffered an injury-plagued campaign and went over five months without making a league appearance prior to his comeback.

Speaking after the youngster's return to the pitch, Xavi lauded Fati's ability and said it was a "shame" the Catalan giants had been without him for the majority of the season.

"He is very happy to be with the group," Xavi said. "Little by little, he needs competition rhythm. Training is not the same as participating in a match and he needs time. 

"Ansu is a special player. You see him in training. He has made an effort to be with us.

"I have tried him as a number nine [in this match] so that he was close to the area, and because he is not yet ready to do many one-on-ones. 

"It's a shame that we haven't had him these months because I'm sure he would have helped us. I'm very happy for him."

Although Fati's 15-minute cameo in Barcelona's fifth win in seven LaLiga games (two defeats) was welcome news, the Blaugrana lost defender Gerard Pique to injury in the first-half, and Xavi said his former team-mate had been playing through the pain barrier to help Barca's push for a top-four finish.

"Today he told me that he was very well, but in the 10th minute he felt discomfort again. He is making a super effort for the team, he is super involved but the pain is there," Xavi added.

"In the 25th minute, he told me that he couldn't give any more and it was difficult for him to run. 

"Let's see how it is this week. Pique is very important because of his ball output, his size, his set piece [threat] and the leadership he gives to the group."

Barcelona face top-four rivals Real Betis in their next league outing on Saturday, and could mathematically confirm Champions League qualification with a win in that contest if Betis fail to win at Getafe on Monday.

Xavi said his Barcelona team must fight for titles next season, as he acknowledged second place was the highest finish realistically available to them in LaLiga this term.

Barcelona earned a hard-fought 1-0 win over Real Sociedad on Thursday, and go into Sunday's home contest with Rayo Vallecano 15 points behind league leaders Real Madrid with just 18 points left to play for.

The Catalan giants' victory in the Basque Country, secured courtesy of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's first-half header, kept them six points clear of fifth-placed Real Betis as Xavi attempts to lead his team to Champions League qualification.

Xavi, however, recognises that improvements will be needed next season, acknowledging that while second place is the best Barcelona can hope for this term, "only winning" counts at Camp Nou.

"We are playing a lot, [qualification for] the Champions League and second place [are our targets]," he told reporters at a news conference on Saturday. "The league [title] is very difficult.

"We have dropped a little in terms of the game compared to a few weeks ago. If we recover, we will be closer to results. We must finish as high as possible, which realistically is second place.

"Since November in the league we've been fighting with Madrid. Next year we have to fight to win titles, here it is only worth winning. 

"Since November, we are one or two points behind Madrid, but they are up there on their own merits and so are we, we've gone from ninth to second [since Xavi replaced former boss Ronald Koeman]."

After suffering back-to-back home losses to Eintracht Frankfurt and Cadiz, Barcelona are looking to avoid losing three consecutive games at Camp Nou for just the second time in their history when they host Vallecano, having only previously done so under Louis van Gaal in 1998.

However, Xavi has undoubtedly made a positive impact since replacing Koeman at the helm, with the January arrivals of Ferran Torres and Aubameyang, LaLiga's top scorer in 2022 with nine goals, boosting their hopes of finishing second.

Rumours have linked several big names, including Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland, with summer moves to Camp Nou, but Xavi says the need for further additions must continue to be balanced with the club's finances. 

"We are planning for next year, but we depend on the club's economy," he added. "Let's see what we can do, and people have to go out. You have to do good planning and the idea is to have two competitive players per position.

"We have to start planning but what most concerns us is day-to-day, staying as high as possible, but let's see what economic situation we are in."

Meanwhile, Xavi revealed Gerard Pique, who has made headlines after leaked audio messages highlighted his involvement in moving the Supercopa de Espana to Saudi Arabia, is a doubt for Sunday's clash after playing through injury on Thursday.  

"We are managing it as best we can," Xavi said of his former team-mate's injury.

"He has had discomfort for two or three months, but he endured 80 minutes [against Sociedad] in a spectacular way. We will see tomorrow, he has not been able to train today."

Barcelona's victory over Real Sociedad at Reale Arena on Thursday was "crucial for the future of the club", according to coach Xavi. 

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the only goal of the game as Barca defeated La Real 1-0, moving up to second in LaLiga increasing their advantage over fifth-placed Real Betis to six points. 

It was the Blaugrana's only attempt on target across the entire game and they had 44.3 per cent possession – their second-lowest amount since 2005-06 – with poor finishing from Alexander Sorloth and Alexander Isak letting the visitors off the hook. 

Barca are now unbeaten in their past 13 LaLiga away games, which is their best such run since April 2019. 

Xavi was pleased with the fact their win came against a top-four rival, even if their performance was far from what he would have wanted. 

"I am satisfied with the three points. They are vital and crucial for the future to the team and the club. It's a golden victory," Xavi said. 

"But I'm not satisfied with the game. The first half, yes, but in the second half we suffered. We have to be honest and self-critical. We haven't been good. 

"We have to improve. This is not the way. It's not been our ideal game. These are three crucial points against a direct rival for the Champions League. 

"It's the game in which I've suffered the most, along with the one against Villarreal. We noticed the fatigue." 

Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba played on after appearing to sustain muscle injuries and signal for substitutions, while Ronald Araujo was withdrawn with a knee problem and Dani Alves also appeared to struggling with an issue. 

"Jordi, Ronald, Pique – we are suffering a lot. There's a lot of fatigue because the calendar is demanding," said Xavi. 

"It's not that we don't train well, it's the way the game is played. And the calendar is demanding. But the effort is spectacular. 

"[Pique] has been playing with discomfort for two or three months … at 35 years old, he is in shape. It's vital." 

Xavi has full confidence that Gerard Pique will not let off-field matters impact his performances, as he suggested the Barcelona defender will be motivated by the criticism coming his way.

Pique has had to defend himself in recent days after it emerged he had negotiated a €24million commission when the Supercopa de Espana was moved to Saudi Arabia in 2020.

The 35-year-old's sports entertainment company Kosmos was behind the deal, and leaked audio recordings led El Confidencial to report they would benefit to the tune of €4m per tournament over the six-year agreement with Saudi Arabia.

Luis Rubiales, the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), defended himself in a news conference on Wednesday, two days after Pique told a Twitch stream: "I have nothing to hide, everything we have done is legal."

Another leaked discussion between Pique and Rubiales surrounded the centre-back potentially going to the Tokyo Olympics as part of Spain's squad.

While Xavi conceded the situation is difficult, he insists he trusts Pique's intentions around the Supercopa, while claiming his former team-mate will be motivated to perform better by the controversy.

"He is outgoing and likes to be on people's lips," Xavi told a news conference ahead of Barca's LaLiga meeting with Real Sociedad.

"I am more diplomatic. I know him. If he wasn't focused, I would warn him, but it [attention] gives him fuel. It's adrenaline for him. It's like a drug, in a good sense of the word. He's focused.

"Pique's Twitch didn't bother me, it [would] bother me if he didn't give it his all or didn't follow the rules. It's Gerard and I know him. I know how to manage him and he needs it. He's doing well to compete, he needs this stimulus. 

"It's very difficult, my opinion doesn't change anything. There are two people involved. I know Rubiales well, he's a noble guy.

"I trust his honesty. He must explain himself, and [so must] Pique. I think they looked for the good of the great majority. I want to think that. If it is ethical or not? There are opinions of all kinds."

 

Away from Pique, Xavi has his own problems to think about. Barca have lost their last two games, suffering successive home defeats across all competitions for the first time since April 2003 after reverses in the Europa League against Eintracht Frankfurt and LaLiga against Cadiz.

The latter defeat left Barca 15 points behind leaders Real Madrid, who can move 18 points clear with a win over Osasuna before the Blaugrana's meeting with La Real the following day.

"There was no anger, but I told them things clearly," Xavi said when asked what he told his players following the loss to Cadiz. "You have to be better, the game had to be won.

"I feel bad, I like to win, but I have to face reality. I will not change what I believe. In the league we had a good run until Cadiz."

Barca did have a good run, going unbeaten in 15 LaLiga matches before that 1-0 loss at Camp Nou on Monday.

They are level with Sevilla and Atletico Madrid on 60 points, but sit just five ahead of sixth-placed La Real.

Barca, though, are unbeaten in their last 11 league meetings with the Basque team and have not lost any of their last 12 LaLiga away games.

Luis Rubiales, president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), has rejected claims of wrongdoing after reports that Gerard Pique asked him to intervene in the selection of Spain's squad for the Tokyo Olympics.

A series of conversations between Rubiales and Pique have been leaked by Spanish publication El Confidencial in recent days, focusing on Pique's involvement in moving the Supercopa de Espana to Saudi Arabia.

New leaks, however, appear to show Pique asking Rubiales to ensure he was picked for the delayed 2020 Olympic Games, at which he wished to make his Spain return after retiring from international football in 2018.

Pique is allegedly heard telling Rubiales in one audio message: "You have to do this for me Rubi, you have to get it for me," referencing a spot in the Olympic squad coached by Spain U21 boss Luis de la Fuente. The Barcelona centre-back is also have said to have hit out at Sergio Ramos' more public request to be involved.

At a news conference held on Wednesday, however, Rubiales denied the messages exposed any wrongdoing from himself or Pique, saying it was "normal" for players, with many of whom he is close, to make such requests.

"Maybe another one [player] appears who asked me to, and it's not Pique. I'm going to keep talking to them like that. I have a conversation with someone I've known for years and I speak as I speak," Rubiales said.

"There were more [players] who asked me. He [Pique] announced a long time ago that he did not want to return, and I spoke with Luis de la Fuente so that he would know who had called me. 

"It is common when one is a great player and he wants to come back [to the national team]. Then Luis made a very different decision. We act with the utmost honesty. He is not the only footballer who has asked me to do so."

Pique, along with Ramos, was ultimately left out of the squad, with Spain earning the silver medal after a 2-1 extra-time defeat to Brazil in the final.

Meanwhile, attention has also been drawn to the new four-team format introduced for the Supercopa since it moved to Saudi Arabia, with Rubiales' federation accused of being motivated by a financial need for giants Real Madrid and Barca to remain involved.

Rubiales admitted that the likelihood of those two clubs being involved did result in greater revenue being generated through TV rights sales, but denied that this amounted to any sort of favouritism.

"We sell the TV rights to the final all over the world. There are some countries that wait to bid when they are the finalists," Rubiales added. "If there is a derby or Clasico, the offer multiplies a lot. 

"That adds to the management and would affect the variable. [But] we have no idea who is going to play in the final."

Luis Rubiales, president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), has refuted claims of wrongdoing amid controversy surrounding the Supercopa de Espana.

Messages and phone calls between Rubiales and Barcelona stalwart Gerard Pique have been leaked to the media.

The audio recordings revealed Pique helped negotiate a €24million commission when the Supercopa was expanded to four teams and moved to Saudi Arabia in 2020.

It was a deal reportedly worth €40m to the RFEF for every tournament played in the middle-eastern state.

Spanish publication El Confidencial, which released the audio on Monday, claimed Pique's Kosmos group, a sports entertainment company founded in 2017, would benefit to the tune of €4m per tournament over the six-year agreement with Saudi Arabia.

Pique insisted he had done no wrong, telling a Twitch stream: "I have nothing to hide, everything we have done is legal."

On Wednesday, Rubiales gave a news conference to address the issue and hit out at the people who hacked the RFEF communications, calling them "gangsters" and suggesting more than one person or group was involved in the hacking as he denied charging any commission.

"I qualify as a gangster whoever has used that information for a spurious interest. I know who benefits," Rubiales said.

"I do not charge commissions. How would you be if the information about your life was stolen, private conversations? I qualify this as a mafia. I don't think this can be achieved by one person."

Explaining how the switch to Saudi Arabia came about, Rubiales said: "Kosmos proposed a change of format for the Supercopa. They started to work on it.

"We spoke to Saudi Arabia, the US, China, countries in Africa and other countries. It was clear that their financial relationship would not be with the RFEF, but with Saudi Arabia."

Rubiales also insisted there was no conflict of interest "because there is no economic relationship with Kosmos".

He suggested the hackers could go as far as to plant evidence of wrongdoing against him and added: "There are several complaints. We have suffered several attacks. Here are some criminals who are trying to damage my image [and the] RFEF.

"We are going to collaborate with the police, and it is under investigation."

Gerard Pique says he felt like an "idiot" for coming out in defence of former Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu following the Barcagate scandal.

The Blaugrana stalwart was one of several players who were found to have been the targets of reported smear campaigns orchestrated by the ex-Camp Nou supremo during his time as president.

Bartomeu, whose tenure saw success in La Liga and the Champions League, left the club in financial difficulties when he resigned in October 2020.

Speaking to YouTube personality Jordi Wild, Pique launched a scathing critique of Bartomeu, accusing him of poor management skills and a lack of commitment to the club.

"He's a person who doesn't know how to say no or deal with problems," the centre-back stated. "In recent times, we never saw him around the sporting complex.

"I got angry with him because he lied to my face with Barcagate. The club contracted some services to criticise players and [he] told [Lionel] Messi and me that he didn't know anything.

"Then I found out that he did know. That he lied to me about such a serious incident... and I came out like an idiot to defend him."

Pique also admitted he is less consumed by his love for football now as he approaches the twilight of his career.

Since joining Barcelona in 2008 from Manchester United, the defender has gone on to win every major honour available for club and country.

"As a sport, I liked it more when I was little than now," he added. "Before, I lived it with more passion.

"Now you have a lot on offer and football competes against many things."

In just three words, Barcelona centre back Gerard Pique summed up the feelings of Blaugrana die-hards after beating Real Madrid 4-0: "We are back."

It was a stunning display away from home at the Santiago Bernabeu for Xavi's side, netting two goals in each half to spin the Spanish football world on its axis for a night.

Pique played all 90 minutes alongside centre back partner Eric Garcia, marshalling a stout defence to a stylish clean sheet and providing an outlet for the Barcelona midfielders as they retained 60 percent of possession.

Barca are now on a 10-match unbeaten streak in LaLiga, with six wins and four draws, as well as making it through to the quarter-finals of the Europa League, where they will play Eintracht Frankfurt.

The Camp Nou club also has a record of eight wins and three draws from 11 matches in all competitions since the closing of the January transfer window, sporting a goal-difference of plus-21 during that span.

Since Xavi took over in early November, Barcelona have taken 37 points from 16 LaLiga games, while Madrid have claimed 39 from 17 outings, indicating the rivalry may be much closer than this season's table indicates.

Carlo Ancelotti said the penalty awarded to Real Madrid in their 4-1 win over Valencia on Saturday "seemed quite clear" after Los Che's official Twitter account suggested it was a "robbery".

Madrid went ahead two minutes before the interval through Karim Benzema's 300th goal in all competitions for the club, the France international powering home from the spot after Omar Alderete had been penalised for a foul inside the area on Casemiro.

That led to Valencia's Twitter account posting: "The robbery in Madrid begins to be somewhat repetitive."

The tweet also tagged the hit Netflix show Money Heist, which follows a group of bank robbers in the Spanish capital.

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique could not resist getting involved, replying to the Valencia tweet with the message: "Do not say it too loud that you are going to be sanctioned."

Ancelotti, though, had no issues with the award of the penalty, telling a media conference: "From a distance it seemed quite clear to me but I don't know anything else about what happened.

"I don't know what to say. I have to evaluate the game. We deserved to win and it is true that the penalty has helped us but I think the game was complete."

 

Madrid sealed a third consecutive LaLiga win over Valencia in the second half thanks to a brace from Vinicius Junior – his fourth double of the season – and a second strike from Benzema.

Vinicius has been involved in a goal every 101.6 minutes in all competitions this season for Los Blancos (14 goals, seven assists) – his best ratio in a single season for the club.

Benzema, meanwhile, became just the fourth Madrid player to hit 300 goals for the club, after Cristiano Ronaldo (450), Raul (323) and Alfredo Di Stefano (308).

Despite the duo's superb form this season, Ancelotti hinted that he could be ready to shuffle his pack up front in the coming weeks.

"I think we have to think game by game," he added. "Vinicius has returned well. He has not excelled much in dribbling but he was ready to score goals. He has scored goals from a forward area and Karim is always the same.

"We are going to compete, be it with [Marco] Asensio, Rodrygo or whoever. They have done very well. No one is immovable because each game is different.

"Today they have done very well but I also have to think about other players. We are lucky to have these players who stand out a lot."

Madrid are next in action on Wednesday when they take on arch rivals Barcelona in the Supercopa de Espana semi-finals.

Gerard Pique claimed the future will be bright for Barcelona given the club's emerging youngsters but labelled the current situation as "critical".

Barcelona were held to a 2-2 draw at Osasuna on Sunday, with Chimy Avila's deflected late strike salvaging a point for Jagoba Arrasate's side to leave Xavi's new team without a win in three games across all competitions.

The result meant the Blaugrana sat 15 points behind LaLiga leaders Real Madrid, even before Los Blancos' clash with city rivals Atletico Madrid later on Sunday.

However, it is not all bad news, given Ez Abde and Nico Gonzalez scored their first goals for the club, the first time in the 21st century that Barcelona have had two teenage goalscorers in a top-flight game.

Pique pinpointed the academy players as a key reason for hope in the future, but the centre-back appreciates the present is just as important for the struggling Catalan club.

"A new era begins in which we have to start adding three [points] at a time in the league," Pique told Movistar Plus.

"It is the priority, we have to try not to increase the distance with those above. This result is a very great pity.

"The objective is to think about the next game, only in the short term. We know that in the long run, these young people are going to be very good for the club.

"We have to get results, win and win again. It is really urgent, we are in a critical situation."

Barcelona were knocked out of the Champions League in midweek following defeat at Bayern Munich, but they looked like responding well against Osasuna, who have not defeated the Blaugrana in a home league game since February 2012.

But the defensive frailties of the Barcelona defence were evident once more when David Garcia headed home and then again when Avila struck from the edge of the area with four minutes remaining.

Indeed, Barca – alongside five other teams – have kept a league-low three clean sheets this term, but Pique feels confident results will come if his side keep putting in the hard work.

"I think that little by little we are going to give more," he said. "The team today have competed. Obviously, we can play better. But in attitude and work, nothing can be said to us. The games and results will come.

"It is a matter of time, but we don't have it. It is urgent to start winning. Now every game is a final."

Gerard Pique revealed he feels "added pressure" as he does not want to let former team-mate and new Barcelona head coach Xavi down.

The centre-back has started all three games of the new era under Xavi, who was appointed in the wake of Ronald Koeman's dismissal at the end of October.

Barca have won twice while drawing the other of Xavi's first three games and currently sit in 10th in LaLiga, 10 points behind leaders Real Madrid.

Pique now feels an added incentive and pressure to perform for the former Blaugrana midfielder, who he played with 261 times during the Catalan club's halcyon days.

"Xavi has arrived and has set standards like many coaches," Pique told Spanish television show El Hormiguero on Tuesday. 

"They are necessary to demand orders and we are going to fulfil them all as it has always been in the past.

"It puts added pressure on me to have Xavi as a coach, you don't want to let him down.

"Morally I have to give him my best and if my performance is not the best I feel like I'm failing him."

Barca's challenge has mounted this term following the departure of Lionel Messi, who ended a 21-year association with the Spanish giants as he joined Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.

Pique explained the difficulties of seeing Messi leave as he reminisced on a glory period with the Argentine superstar, who collected a record-extending seventh Ballon d'Or on Monday.

"It was very hard, we played together since we were 14 years old," he added. "It was very hard from a sporting and personal point of view. Things haven't gone well for us at the start of the season.

"I am happy for him and his seventh Ballon d'Or proves that he is the best of all time.

"He has gone to a new country and a new culture. It's difficult, it happened to me when I was 17 when I went to Manchester [United]. Leo has gone with his family and I went on my own, but it's hard."

Pique has no ambitions to leave Barca, though he has been gradually preparing himself for a potential retirement.

"Many team-mates say that when you retire it's hard. You have had this routine since you were little," the 34-year-old continued.

"It takes you a long time to adapt to the new life. People can take a year or more. And people recognise you less and less in the street and generations go by. It's hard.

"I have been preparing myself for this life for a long time. Investing in business, projects, [and so on] to have something to do after I retire.

"The key is to have something to do after leaving football. But clearly, I'm going to miss football."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's future is in doubt as Manchester United continue to struggle.

United were outclassed effortlessly by neighbours Manchester City in Saturday's Premier League derby.

Struggling for form, Solskjaer could pay the price at Old Trafford.

 

TOP STORY – SOLSKJAER SET FOR AXE?

Manchester United are considering the departure of under-fire manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, according to the Daily Mail.

Manchester City eased past United 2-0 in the Premier League derby showdown at Old Trafford, where Solskjaer's side were left sixth and nine points off the pace.

There are reports of a player revolt as Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo grow frustrated with life in Manchester.

Zinedine Zidane and Ajax boss Erik ten Hag have been linked as possible replacements.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato claims Real Madrid and Newcastle United are interested in Liverpool star Mohamed Salah. The Egypt international, who is contracted to Liverpool until 2023, is keen to sign a new deal at Anfield.

City are weighing up a move for Juventus and Netherlands centre-back Matthijs de Ligt, says El Nacional. De Ligt has also been linked with Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United.

Karim Benzema is open to joining Paris Saint-Germain should Madrid sign Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, per El Nacional. Benzema has reportedly snubbed a move to Newcastle, while Haaland has been linked with City, United, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Liverpool, PSG, Chelsea and Juve.

Gerard PiqueSergio BusquetsSergi Roberto and Jordi Alba will be allowed to leave Barca under new head coach Xavi, according to El Nacional. Fabrizio Romano adds Xavi will look to re-sign Pablo Gavi and Ousmane Dembele.

- Calciomercato claims Atletico Madrid are interested in Udinese's Nahuel Molina, who is also wanted by Inter.

Barcelona's Gerard Pique is among those to have shown his support to A-League player Josh Cavallo, who has come out as the first openly gay top-flight footballer in the world.

Adelaide United defender Cavallo made the announcement in a video and open letter on social media on Wednesday.

The news is a historic moment for sporting community and one Cavallo hopes will help others find the courage to follow in his steps.

"I want to help change this," he said. "I want to show that everyone is welcome in the game of football and deserves the right to be their authentic self.

"It is astonishing to know that there are currently no gay professional footballers who are out and actively playing, not only in Australia, but around the world. 

"Hopefully this will change in the near future."

Cavallo's announcement was met with widespread supporting, with Pique praising the 21-year-old for making the public announcement.

"I don't have the pleasure to know you personally, but I want to thank you for this step that you take," Pique posted on Twitter. 

"The world of football is far behind and you are helping us move forward."

Pique's former Barca team-mate and current Atletico Madrid loanee Antoine Griezmann said: "Proud of you @JoshuaCavallo".

Barca were one of a number of teams to commend Cavallo, posting: "THANK YOU, @JoshuaCavallo for taking a huge step forward! 

"Your courage contributes to normalizing diversity in the world of sports."

Premier League side Arsenal tweeted: "Thank you @JoshuaCavallo for your strength and bravery...

"You are an inspiration to millions. Everyone deserves the right to be themselves."

Several other top-flight players have previously come out as gay once their professional playing careers were over, including former Aston Villa player Thomas Hitzlsperger.

Former Newcastle Jets player Andy Brennan came out while playing in a lower tier and is now plying his trade for semi-professional side Hume City.

Page 1 of 3
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.