Spain head coach Vicente del Bosque has reiterated his support for under-fire defender Gerard Pique ahead of his side’s Euro 2016 qualification clash in Macedonia on Tuesday.
The Barcelona star was again a target for some sections of home fans in Oviedo during Spain’s 2-0 victory over Slovakia on Saturday, with the 28-year-old continuing to divide opinion amongst supporters of the national team for his views on Catalan independence.
Spain’s minister for education, culture and sport, Inigo Mendez de Vigo, has been one of the senior figures to come out in support of Pique since that game and Del Bosque has now urged the country to unite behind his player.
“I have already said that I do not like the whistles,” the 64-year-old told Onda Cero. “With our team Pique has had exemplary behavior in the 70 games he played.
“He is a special guy and we have to defend him. If I was to stop calling him up for the national team, there may be an actual reason for those ones who whistled him to do so. The fact [he is still playing] speak louder than words.
“I believe the issue [is] related to clashes between Real Madrid and Barcelona, rather than politics. This behaviour is difficult to stop, but some things should not be mixed with others.
“People get angry when I defend a player from the team and think I am favouring one club or another but Pique defends the shirt like any other player.
“For me, it is something small and I do not want to give it more importance.”
On the issue of Catalan clubs one day breaking away from La Liga if the region was to gain independence from mainland Spain, Del Bosque stressed he was not in favour.
He continued: “I cannot imagine one the Spanish league without Barcelona and other Catalan clubs. In my opinion, the separation between Catalonia and Spain would be bad for both sides.”