Barcelona defender Gerard Pique appears to have moved a significant step closer to securing a transfer away from the Camp Nou after his manager, Luis Enrique, publicly embarrassed him during Saturday's 2-1 victory over Almeria.
The Spain international was told to warm-up by Enrique, even though the Barca boss had made his third and final substitution moments earlier.
Pique was left out of the starting line-up for the third consecutive match, amid intense speculation that he could be on his way out of the club. Both Manchester United and Chelsea have been strongly linked with the 27-year-old in recent weeks.
Pique to join Chelsea?
Recent reports have claimed that Pique will snub a move to United in order to join Chelsea, the Premier League leaders who brought the defender's former teammate Cesc Fabregas to Stamford Bridge in the summer.
Chelsea might be a more attractive proposition for the £110,000-a-week defender because the west London are competing in the Champions League and appear to stand an excellent chance of winning major honours over the forthcoming seasons.
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With John Terry coming to the end of his Chelsea career, Pique could slot in seamlessly for the Blues' skipper for the next few years.
But Pique spent four of his formative years with Manchester United before returning to Barcelona in 2008 after failing to displace either Rio Ferdinand or Nemanja Vidic at Old Trafford - and could be convinced to re-join the Red Devils by ex-Barca boss Louis van Gaal, who is in desperate need of defensive reinforcements.
The odds of Pique staying at the Camp Nou beyond January are increasing all the time and Saturday's incident is seen as in Spain as a real slap in the face of the centre-back, who was widely considered one of Europe's best defenders until recently.
Video: Pique humiliated by Enrique
Mobile phone incident
While Pique's performances have deteriorated since the departure of Pep Guardiola in 2012, there could be another reason why Enrique has chosen to leave the former Manchester United player out of his teams in recent weeks.
During the recent Supercopa de Catalunya clash against Espanyol, Pique was filmed using his mobile phone while his teammates were in action after being substituted at half-time.
But after that match, Enrique played down rumours of a rift with Pique, telling reporters: "Pique is doing everything a footballer can do.
"It is you [the media] who is exaggerating. If I have a problem with a player, I like to be direct with them. But thankfully that has not happened here.
"I am not speaking any more about this matter. You have already asked me three questions about just one player."
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