Knowing when to quit

Gerard Piqué has made the decision to cut his career short as his playing time this season has dwindled

Rob Palmer
ROB PALMER

My co-commentator heard boos; I saw fans applauding. Gerard Piqué is the man who can divide stadiums and the opinion of all in football.

One of the most celebrated players of all-time announced his playing career is over in a secretly choreographed manner.

Is it a surprise that he retired? No. Was it a surprise the way he did it? Yes, to most people.

The opening sentence refers to his introduction for the final 12 minutes of the home game with Villarreal. There was a residue of unrest from the disappointing draw with Inter Milan which ended Barcelona's Champions League ambitions. He was the captain of a sinking ship.

The Camp Nou fans let him know just what they thought of the lowering of standards. Well, half of them. The other half politely applauded one of the club legends onto the field.

When he weighed everything up, he realised it was time to go. His form has dropped and he's the fifth choice in his position at the club. With three of those ahead of him injured, he saw the chance to play one final game against an inferior opposition. He'd be selected against Almeria. He may not be an automatic selection again.

A dramatic yet stylish film was released by his people catching the club by surprise. As an experienced television person, I reckon it took a couple of weeks to make.

The final scene shows the centre-back staring from the pitch to the club president's box and promising: "Sooner or later, I will be back".

Piqué is a very intelligent man from a privileged background and his grandfather, Amador, was a vice-president of the club. They say every generation is an upgrade and Gerard has his eyes set on the top position at FC Barcelona.

He's certainly not going to be retiring to a golf course or opening a wine bar. He's already president of Kosmos, a company that has negotiated a $3 billion rights deal for the Davis Cup in tennis, owns FC Andorra of the Spanish second division and was instrumental in taking the Spanish Super Cup to Saudi Arabia. The latter deal really did divide opinion.

His family life is also divided. His pop star former partner Shakira is planning to move to Miami along with their two sons.

Now you can see why he doesn't want to be watching football matches in a tracksuit from the sidelines for the remainder of the season when he can be donning a business suit or jumping on a transatlantic flight to spend time with his kids.

Piqué's retired at just the right moment with his playing powers waning. A World and European champion with his country, he won every club honour several times over with Barcelona. His national team partnership with Sergio Ramos was arguably the greatest ever. He and the former Real Madrid captain were harmonious on the pitch yet bickered once away from the action.

Piqué hasn't held back on his support for a referendum on Catalan independence. This further divided opinion. Even when he pulled on a Spain shirt, he was jeered for his views.

This isn't the end of the Gerard Piqué story, it's just a turning point in the book of his life and career.