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9 Aug, 2021 12:16

Barcelona icon Pique admits club ‘aren’t the same when the best player ever leaves’ as Catalan giants grapple with Messi departure

Barcelona icon Pique admits club ‘aren’t the same when the best player ever leaves’ as Catalan giants grapple with Messi departure

Barcelona stalwart Gerard Pique has admitted that the departure of Lionel Messi is a seismic blow to the club as the Catalan giants prepare for life without the influence of the club's 'best player ever'.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi confirmed his departure from the club he has represented since he was a boy in a tearful press conference at the Camp Nou on Sunday in a move mandated by the club's dire financial status.

Despite both Messi and Barcelona wishing to extend the Argentine's stay at the club, his departure was an enforced one.

Salary cap rules within LaLiga had prevented Barcelona from registering Messi ahead of next season's domestic campaign, even after Messi agreed to a 50 percent cut to his annual salary – and with Liga chief Javier Tebas ruling out any special dispensation being afforded to the club to keep Messi in Spain, Sunday's press conference represented the final nail in the coffin of Messi's association with the Barcelona.

The 34-year-old star is widely expected to sign a two-year, $59 million deal with French club Paris Saint-Germain in the coming days, where Messi is expected to form a fearsome trident attack alongside former Barca colleague Neymar and Kylian Mbappe – but as far as Pique is concerned, PSG's gain is very much Barcelona's loss.

"You aren't the same side in terms of talent and magic when the best player ever leaves," said Pique in the aftermath of Barcelona's 3-0 friendly win against Juventus. 

"You lose an important attacking player, who gives you a lot of goals and assists, but you have to stay competitive.

"It isn't one of the best days. You know that one day it has to happen, but it's affected the team. Particularly those of us who have been sharing a dressing room with him for years.

"We know that, without Leo, we will lose a very important piece. He is the best player in history. At the talent level we will not be as talented, but the team has to grow in other aspects.

"And in football, it is obvious. You are talking about the best player of all time. I think the team is going to adapt.

"There are players and talent and now what is missing is bringing people together. Things will work out. We are Barca and in the end we will end up competing for the titles."

Barcelona fans exhibited their mourning by chanting Messi's name during the 10th minute of the match with Juventus – with Pique also the target of jeers from the Barca faithful, some of whom are apparently upset with his reported refusal to accept a severance package from the club which would have freed up additional funds to process a new contract for Messi.

Pique, though, called on supporters to understand that he is under no obligation to step aside to make financial breathing room for the club.

"It is a very complicated situation," he said. "People have every right to express themselves, but also, if we were in their situation, there would be many who would try to fight for what they must do and for what they have signed at the time.

"In the end, they are club workers. It's a complicated situation. I understand that people express themselves, but I would tell them to all row together.

"Help the team. We are in a new era in which we need the fans more than ever. Whistles do not help, no matter how much people are disappointed."

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