Lionel Messi leaving Barcelona like father dying, says Gerard Pique

Barcelona will be in mourning when Lionel Messi ends his association with the club, according to Gerard Pique.The mercurial Argentina forward has come to embody modern-day Barca, rising through the club’s famed La Masia academy to become one of football’s all-time greats.

Pique has won 24 major honours alongside Messi during their time at the Camp Nou and the Spaniard has warned his departure will have a profound effect on the Catalans.

“He has been completely unique… the day he leaves will be like the day your father dies, and that will be hard,” Pique told TV3.

“We talk about Leo now, but one day he won’t be here and we will be naked, but we will have to start again to keep being competitive.”

Messi broke into the Barcelona first-team in 2004 and his career has since coincided with the most-successful spell in the club’s 116-year history.

The 29-year-old, who has won 29 major honours, has been the figurehead of a golden generation of Barca academy products that includes the likes of Pique, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Carles Puyol and Sergio Busquets.

And Pique has warned there will never be a generation like them again, adding: “There won’t be more Messi’s.

“We don’t expect there to be more, as there won’t be another generation in La Masia like the one with Xavi, Busquets, Puyol, Iniesta and myself. “Let’s hope there can be, but I don’t think it will happen again.”