Barcelona midfielder Xavi insists out-of-favour defender Gerard Pique is a crucial member of the Catalan giants’ squad.
Pique has slipped down the pecking order at Camp Nou following the arrival of Luis Enrique as coach during the summer.
The Spain international had established himself as arguably the club’s defensive talisman following Carles Puyol’s injury concerns and subsequent retirement, but off-field issues this term have not helped his cause since Enrique arrived.
Pique has largely been restricted to the bench in recent weeks and there is growing speculation he could be on the move in the near future, with reports indicating he could be ready to quit the La Liga outfit in January.
Xavi, however, has backed the defender to reclaim his place in the Barca side as he feels Pique is “fundamental” to Barcelona’s future plans.
“Pique is a fundamental, vital and essential player for Barca,” Xavi told Spanish daily Marca.
Former club Manchester United have been credited with an interest in Pique, while fellow Premier League side’s Chelsea and Manchester City are also believed to be monitoring his situation at Camp Nou.
Barcelona are currently second in the La Liga table, two points behind bitter rivals Real Madrid after 11 games.
Barca host Sevilla after the international break and they are 1.22 to claim all three points, while Sevilla are available at 11.04 and a draw is 5.27.