Barcelona president Joan Laporta has maintained that Gerard Pique's decision to retire was decided by him and 'probably' a sporting decision.
Pique called time on an exceptional career last week and made his final Barcelona appearance in a victory over Almeria in La Liga, drawing the curtain mid-season after a tricky beginning to the campaign.
While his decline has been apparent, there had also been suspicions that Pique had chosen to hang up his boots in order to provide Barcelona with further financial breathing room, with his contract now off the wage bill.
But Laporta spoke to SPORT about the decision, insisting it was Pique's doing: "Piqué's departure has been decided by him.
"If Gerard had had the coach's confidence and played like an undisputed starter, he obviously wouldn't have left," he said. "Piqué has decided what he wanted to do and we, from the board of directors, respect him."
He went further, opening up on manager Xavi's conversations with Pique: "Xavi has been very honest with him. From the first moment the technician told him that he did not count on him and I also discussed his situation with him.
"But Gerard is a competitive man, a winner, and he still saw himself as a starter and wanted to continue. Although in the end he has seen the reality and has made a decision. He has had a way of saying goodbye to the club, given the rush, very nice.
"We always want our heroes to be eternal but it is impossible."
The 35-year-old had made just six La Liga appearances this season and had fallen down the pecking order, despite Barcelona's defensive injury struggles.