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Barça coach Xavi Hernández has made a confession in relation to Gerard Piqué's bombshell retirement announcement, at the press conference prior to Sunday's Spanish league match against Almería. Piqué surprised everyone on Thursday by declaring, almost out-of-the-blue, that he is leaving both the club and the football pitch, and the praise from Barcelona fans for his long and brilliant career has been coming thick and fast ever since. After FC Barcelona president Joan Laporta was the first voice in the club to officially respond to Piqué's news, it is now the coach's turn 

Gerard Piqué's last dance with Barça

This Sunday will be Piqué's last game at the Camp Nou, in front of the home fans, but he will be available to the team next Tuesday against Osasuna in El Sadar. Thus, these two matches will be his last two wearing the Barça shirt. But right now what matters are not the matches, but how the fans will say goodbye to one of the great pillars that formed the best Barça team in history.

Practically the entire press conference was monopolized by questions about Gerard Piqué. No surprise there. And Xavi Hernández answered them all while constantly praising the defender. "He deserves every bit of praise and I've been lucky enough to be his teammate and coach," began the former midfield star.

Gerard Piqué: exemplary, and a born winner

Xavi explained that "I understand the adverse circumstances, he feels less important and less useful, and the most normal thing is to step aside". But he also reaffirmed that this gesture "demonstrates spectacular greatness", since he recalled that Piqué "has been exemplary since I have been coach... an example for the team, for the captains, for the staff."

Xavi Hernández also stated that Gerard Piqué "is a winner and will continue to be so wherever he goes". And he explained that "we had a conversation before the start of the season and I told him my intentions. I was honest with him. It was one of the most difficult days of my career as a coach."

But the Catalan coach also assured that the decision taken to largely do without Piqué on the field during this season "has been difficult for me because he was a teammate for many years, it's not easy". And after avoiding a straight reply when asked if he was one of the culprits of Piqué's resignation from football in the middle of a season, Xavi defended himself saying that "these are decisions that I have to make for the sake of the team and for the good of the club".

Xavi's praise of Piqué made an impact at the press conference, and he highlighted among the centre back's virtues that "he is brave, competitive, a winner, without complexes or fears, intelligent, involved, a good teammate and a good captain". The celebratory words came easy to the coach, and he enjoyed speaking of his long-time colleague. Xavi did not want to confirm whether Piqué will be in the starting eleven this Saturday at Camp Nou, but he did say that Tuesday's game at Osasuna will be his last game with Barça.

According to Xavi, "one of the best centre backs in the history of this sport" is leaving, and now Barça will have to think about finding a new defender next January, something the Catalan coach does not rule out. And speaking of whether Piqué might one day become president of Barça... "Gerard can be anything he wants to be, with the leadership and personality he has... he has all the ability he needs and then some."