Pique says he will leave Spain na­tional team af­ter 2018 World Cup

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Ger­ard Pique says the 2018 World Cup in Rus­sia will be his fi­nal tour­na­ment with Spain be­cause he feels he is not wanted in the na­tional team.

The Barcelona de­fender made the an­nounce­ment af­ter Spain’s 20 win at Al­ba­nia on Sun­day in European qual­i­fy­ing for the World Cup. Spain cur­rently tops Group G, with only first place giv­ing au­to­matic qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

“I al­ways give ev­ery­thing I have on the field, but there are peo­ple who think it’s bet­ter if I’m not here,” Pique said. “Af­ter Rus­sia, a stage will have ended for me.”

The player is of­ten jeered by many Spa­niards be­cause of his pro-Cat­alo­nia stance. He re­cently ap­peared to sup­port a pro-in­de­pen­dence move by the Cata­lan re­gion, up­set­ting those who op­posed it.

Pique stirred a so­cial me­dia con­tro­versy dur­ing Sun­day’s match by cut­ting the sleeves of his soc­cer jersey in­stead of chang­ing into the short sleeves which have the colours of the Span­ish flag. He said the long sleeves were both­er­ing him.

Pique said his de­ci­sion to re­tire had al­ready been made be­fore this lat­est con­tro­versy.

“It’s not a ‘heat of the mo­ment’ de­ci­sion, I’ve given a lot of thought to this.” the 29-year-old Pique said. “It’s not be­cause of what hap­pened today, it’s be­cause I al­ways give my best on the field and, al­though there are some peo­ple who have thanked me, some don’t think it’s OK for me to be here.”

The de­fender said he also wants to give way for younger players.

“You need to give them some space,” Pique said. “I’ll be 31, I’ve won ev­ery­thing with the na­tional team. I’ll try to play my 100th game with the team, and I want to win the World Cup again, which is the most im­por­tant thing.”

Pique, who has two chil­dren with his long-term part­ner, Colom­bian singer Shakira, helped Spain win the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 European Cham­pi­onship.

With Barcelona, he won six Span­ish league ti­tles, as well as three club World Cups and three Cham­pi­ons Leagues.

“Life goes on,” he said. “I still want to be with Barcelona for sev­eral years.”

The Span­ish foot­ball fed­er­a­tion re­leased a state­ment sup­port­ing the player.

Ger­ard Pi­quet in ac­tion dur­ing Sun­day’s match against Al­ba­nia Photo: AP

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