"Culers, I have to tell you something," he posted at 6.36 p.m. on a grey Thursday evening in November, and just like that, it was over. Twenty-five years after he joined the club where he'd been a member from the day he was born, and 15 years since he played the first of his 615 games in the first team, Gerard Pique announced that it was over. A video, beautifully shot, nicely scripted, cut together with camcorder footage of him as a boy in blaugrana, reclaimed the narrative and bid farewell. He was gone -- for now, at least.

"You know me, sooner or later I will back," he said. It was lost on no-one that he said so with a glance at the directors' box. One day, he may be Barcelona president Pique, an aspiration publicly held and not just for a laugh, although there is a lot he does for fun; it is a post for which he has prepared himself. By next week, he will no longer be just the player Pique, if he ever was. Saturday night will be his last game at Camp Nou; Tuesday in Pamplona (against Osasuna) will be his last game, full stop ... if he plays, which these days he doesn't much. (And which is why this has happened, although that is not the only reason.)

"I'm in shock," Barcelona legend Carles Puyol said, and he was not alone. No-one expected this; no-one knew. On Wednesday night, Barcelona's players had eaten together; Pique didn't say anything. President Joan Laporta said they had been contemplating this for a while, but he didn't know it was coming either. Not just yet, and not like this. Pique had done it his way, and that mattered to him, as it always had. After months of people talking about me, it's my turn, he said.

That was significant. These have been difficult days, an increasing feeling that many have turned. It was all happening at once, easy to feel like you're in everyone's crosshairs, an ever easier target. There have been personal issues, repeatedly made explicit in soon-to-be ex-wife Shakira's songs, and pressure had been placed upon him to walk away, expressed even in whistles from the fans. The club's CEO had talked publicly about the need to "destroy" contracts like his, a burden the club could not afford: the veterans, the captains, were portrayed as a problem now, responsible for many failures including those that are not their own.

Loyalty becomes a lead weight fast; how quickly people forget. Service now was to sever the relationship. At a club like Barcelona, things do not always happen and are not always said in isolation, but with intent. Even when they are not, it can feel that way when you're the focus. It can feel like you are pushed. "We share this decision," Laporta said on Thursday night, and it wasn't just a platitude.

In the summer, Pique had been told by head coach Xavi to look for a way out. The 35-year-old replied by saying Xavi could bring in the best central defender in the world and he would compete for his place and win it too. It didn't happen. For a player, it is always hard to accept that the end is close, and it's easy to see other elements at play. Here, the economics certainly are. Pique was not just second choice: he was fifth, sixth even. Players who were not centre-backs were preferred and new signings identified, likely seeing him slip further. In the end, he chose to slip out.