GERARD PIQUE is hanging up his boots after an illustrious career spanning 18 years and featuring 25 major honours.
The Spanish defender lifted the World Cup in 2010 as the pinnacle and backed it up with the Euros two years later.
At club level, he has been a mainstay in the Barcelona team for 14 seasons since returning to the Nou Camp following a short stint at Manchester United.
But after playing in one of the best Sir Alex Ferguson teams and being part of a record-breaking era for Barcelona and Spain, Pique has his fair share of elite team-mates.
Some he played with a lot – such as the 46,558 minutes with Sergio Busquets – and others only briefly – 65 minutes alongside Gary Neville.
But here is arguably the best XI of Pique’s team-mates, and it’s not a bad team…
GK: IKER CASILLAS
The iconic goalkeeper may have been a long-term rival at Real Madrid but they put their allegiances aside for the national team.
They played 56 times together and won the World Cup and Euros within two years – with Casillas the captain.
RB: DANI ALVES
Not only the best right-back to play with Pique but also had the longevity with a superb career over the years.
The most decorated footballer ever by major trophies and a true legend of the game.
CB: SERGIO RAMOS
Pique and Ramos were the stalwarts at the back through season after season of El Clasicos.
But put them together on the field for Spain and few strikers have faced a tougher, more experienced or successful pair of centre-backs.
CB: RIO FERDINAND
It could have been Carles Puyol or Nemanja Vidic but Rio Ferdinand gets the nod as the other centre-back.
LB: JORDI ALBA
Like Alves on the other side, Alba is the obvious choice on the left for his success for both Barcelona and Spain.
He pips the likes of Patrice Evra, Eric Abidal, Marcos Alonso, Nacho Monreal and Kieran Richardson.
Arguably the easiest choice of all – Xavi walks into the first slot in midfield.
Yet another generational talent and formed part of the iconic trio in the heart of the teams for Barca and Spain – and plays a special role in his retirement as his final manager.
CM: PAUL SCHOLES
It is harsh on Busquets to miss out but Scholes is in.
The one-club man bossed the middle of the park for years at United, including when Pique was at Old Trafford.
CM: ANDRES INIESTA
You can’t have Xavi without his pal Iniesta.
The pair were the creativity behind the genius that brought endless success and so much silverware for club and country – plus he scored the goal to win the World Cup in 2010.
RF: LIONEL MESSI
Who else but the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner and Argentine hero Messi, with whom Pique played 40,526 minutes at Barcelona?
The jewel in the crown for Barcelona as the superstar led the way to Champions League glory in 2009, 2011 and 2015 – the best player in possibly the best football team ever.
ST: ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI
This was certainly the hardest choice because of the sheer plethora of strikers Pique has played (see the forwards to miss out below!) with but the latest No9 is arguably one of the very best.
He may not be at his Bayern Munich best right now but as out-and-out strikers go, Lewandowski is one of the best and can feel hard done by not to have a Ballon d’Or on his mantle piece.
LF: CRISTIANO RONALDO
Last but not least it is Ronaldo, albeit they played just 596 minutes together at United before Pique returned to Barcelona – a year later they became rivals when the Portuguese ace signed for Real.
Ronaldo was just heading towards his best in that 2007-08 season and kicked on at the Bernabeu to even greater levels, causing Pique and his fellow defenders all kinds of problems.
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