Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez said overseeing Gerard Pique's retirement from football has been one of the most difficult moments of his managerial career.
Pique, 35, has fallen down the pecking order at Barca under former teammate Xavi this season, prompting him to call time on his career after Tuesday's game away at Osasuna, the final fixture before LaLiga breaks for the World Cup.
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Before then, the former Spain defender will play his final match at Camp Nou against Almeria on Saturday.
"The Almeria game will be conditioned by Pique's goodbye," Xavi said in a news conference on Friday.
"He deserves all the praise that comes his way. I have been lucky enough to be his teammate and now his coach. Certain circumstances have led him to take this decision and 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 [until 2024] and decided to leave it, which is a sign of his greatness.
"He has won everything here, is one of the best centre-backs ever and his decision is respected. He earned the right to decide. He is a club legend and he deserves to be remembered as such."
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Until this season, his 15th back at Barcelona after re-signing from Manchester United in 2008, Pique has always been a regular in the side. However, earlier this year, after the signings of Andreas Christensen and Jules Kounde, Xavi warned him he would no longer be guaranteed as many minutes.
"We spoke in the summer and I told him my intentions for the season," Xavi added.
"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.
"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]."
Xavi said his relationship with Pique remains strong but would not confirm if he will start against Almeria after Christensen and Eric Garcia were both cleared fit to return to the squad. Barcelona are still missing Kounde and Ronald Araujo, though.
The Barcelona coach also said the club could look to sign a replacement for Pique in January, although they will not discuss firm plans for the transfer window until LaLiga breaks for the World Cup.
Reflecting on Pique's career, which has seen him win eight LaLiga titles and three Champions Leagues in 615 Barcelona appearances, in addition to a World Cup and a European Championship with Spain, Xavi said he is one of the best to ever play the position.
"There is also Migueli and [Carles] Puyol and I dont want to forget anyone, but he is one of the best defenders to play for Barca," he said.
"He's among the best [centre-backs] of all time. There is [Franz] Beckenbauer, [Franco] Baresi ... in England there has been John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, but Pique is up there with them."