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Gerard Pique was left in tears following Lionel Messi’s Barcelona exit, but the centre-back says he can understand why his former colleague joined Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi’s 21-year association with Barcelona, 16 of those spent as part of the senior squad, came to an end last August when he signed for PSG as a free agent.

The Argentina international won every trophy available with Barca and departed as the club’s all-time record scorer with 672 goals across 778 appearances.

Last year’s departure came as a huge shock at the time, with the Catalan giants’ financial situation meaning they could not agree fresh term under LaLiga’s salary restrictions.

Pique and Messi came through Barca’s La Masia academy together and spent 13 seasons as first-team regulars after the defender returned from a spell at Manchester United.

In an interview with former United team-mate Gary Neville, Pique opened up on just how tough he found it seeing his close friend move to another club.

“I cried when Messi left. I cried for him,” Pique said on The Overlap podcast. “For the career he had at Barca, it would have been great if he had stayed until the end of his career.

“I can understand why he couldn’t renew. The club was suffering a lot economically because of the past president and how he managed the club.

“At the end of the day, these are things that happen in life. Sometimes you make a decision and things don’t work out.

“For Barcelona and the fans, Messi was like a god. It would have been great if he stayed.”

Messi was directly involved in 937 goals for Barcelona, with his most prolific season coming in 2011-12 when scoring 73 goals in all competitions and assisting a further 28.

But while the record seven-time Ballon d’Or winner was very much the poster boy for Barca’s trophy-laden period, Pique insists Messi could not have done it alone.

“Lionel Messi is the best player in the history of the game,” he said.

“Messi was Barcelona’s best player. I’ve always said that we had Messi to win titles, but we also had to have a good team. A single player cannot win titles.”

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