Gerard Piqué. | Reuters


Gerard Piqué, the captain of FC Barcelona, has taken the football world by surprise by announcing that he will retire after the match against Almeria on Saturday.

Capped 102 times by Spain, Piqué stated on social media on Thursday that he will be playing his last game on Saturday at the Camp Nou. "I will continue to cheer on the team and I will pass on my love for Barça to my children just as my family did with me. I have decided that it is time to close this cycle. I have always said that after Barça there would be no other team. And so it will be."

He joined the club in 1997 at the age of ten but made his professional debut with Manchester United in 2004. He went back to Barcelona in 2008 and first played for Spain in February 2009.

While his announcement has come as a surprise, it may have been influenced by the fact that Barcelona have been eliminated from the Champions League. Piqué, 35, has been under the spotlight recently because of his personal situation - he and Colombian singer Shakira announced their separation in June this year - and because of what are seen as reduced opportunities at Barcelona under coach Xavi Hernández.