Gerard Pique has said Barcelona should name the redeveloped Camp Nou after Lionel Messi when it is finished and suggested the forward should have been allowed to leave in the summer if that is what he wanted.
Messi, 33, sent a burofax in August informing Barca of his desire to leave. President Josep Maria Bartomeu refused to let him go, though, and when Messi realised a legal battle was his only way out of the club -- he argued a clause in his contract allowed him to leave for free -- he decided to stay.
Pique has revealed he sent Messi a message at the time pointing out that a new president and board of directors would be elected within a year. However, despite encouraging him to stay, the Barca defender said Messi had earned the right to decide his own future.
"I didn't have much to do with Leo during that moment because it was a very personal decision," Pique told La Vanguardia. "I remember one message I sent: 'Leo, it's one year, then new people will come in...'
"Leo has more than earned the right to make a decision and if he felt he should leave... as president I would have acted differently. A player that has given so much in 16 years, you're obliged to reach an agreement with him.
"[But] how can it be that the best player in history gets up one day and sends a burofax because he feels he's not being listened to? What's happening? Leo deserves the lot. The new stadium should be named after him.
"We have to preserve our figures, not discredit them. I am surprised people like Pep [Guardiola], [Carles] Puyol, Xavi [Hernandez] and [Victor] Valdes aren't at the club. Something is not being done right."
Pique's interview provided the latest glimpse into the rift that exists between the players and the board at Camp Nou. He admitted his own relationship with Bartomeu is not great, said he would not have sacked Ernesto Valverde and was critical of plans to impose club-wide wage cuts to mitigate the financial consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.
"Having won two leagues and being top, to sack [Valverde] halfway through the season, as a project, doesn't seem very coherent -- I didn't think it was logical," he said.
Following Valverde's dismissal, Cadena Ser revealed Barca had paid a third-party company in charge of several social media account to smear people related to the club, including Pique and other current players. The saga became known as "Barcagate."
"It's an atrocity as a Barcelona player to see my club spending money -- money they're now asking for from us -- to criticise not just external people with a previous relationship to the club, but players still here," Pique added.
Barca are now requesting players take a pay cut to alleviate the effects of the health crisis on the club's accounts.
Pique, 33, is one of four players to voluntarily sign a new deal which sees him take a hit on his salary this season before being remunerated in the latter years of the deal. However, he also signed a burofax sent to the club which criticised plans to push through salary cuts of up to 30% across the club.
"Renewing and signing the burofax are different things," he said. "Personally, any player is free to voluntarily accept an offer from the club. It's another issue when they're obliging you unilaterally and in the way they did [to take a wage cut].
"I am in total disagreement with that. They did it when many players were with their national teams, putting us in the same bracket as the other employees [sources have told ESPN the players believe non-playing staff shouldn't see their pay affected]. As a captain, I defend the team's interests and decided to sign [the burofax]. The dressing room is united [even if] they say it's broken."
Pique also confirmed he would vote in the upcoming vote of no confidence against Bartomeu and celebrated the fact that 20,000 club members had signed a petition to force it through.
On the pitch, Pique is quietly confident about how things are going under new coach Ronald Koeman and looking forward to Saturday's Clasico against Real Madrid.
"The sensations with Koeman are good," he said. "He is very direct with the players like and the workload has increased. We are where we are, but I am optimistic. Moderately optimistic."