Gerard Pique has dismissed suggestions he could walk away from international football and has vowed to defy those who have booed him while on Spain duty.
Barcelona defender Pique’s outspoken support for Catalan independence, as well as his red card for an X-rated outburst against a referee’s assistant in the Supercopa de Espana against Athletic Bilbao, has made him a target for a section of Spain fans and he was jeered during last weekend’s victory over Slovakia.
The situation has reached such a level that the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) switched the friendly against England from the Santiago Bernabeu – the home of Barca’s arch-rivals Real Madrid – to Alicante due to fears over the hostility that could be aimed at the former Manchester United defender.
Reports in Barcelona on Thursday claimed Pique was ready to walk away from his national side but he insisted at a press conference that was not the case.
He said: “No. I would never do that. That would imply people booing me are right. I’m going to keep on playing as long as the coach keeps picking me. I’m not going to let people down.
“I started with 13 years in the selection and my commitment remains the fullest.
“I will not change. Those who accept me, fine. And those who will not, they have to put up with it until the end of my career.”
Pique admitted he was a touch baffled by the fans’ reaction towards him but blamed it on the intense Barca-Madrid rivalry.
“I can give my opinion but it’s something to ask the people,” he added. “I think it’s due to the rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid, but that’s my opinion.”
Pique expressed concern for the impact fans’ criticism could have on his Spain team-mates and, in particular, head coach Vincente del Bosque.
He said: “One thing does worry me is the manager – I know how much he dislikes these situations and how it affects the players.
“We always have to be as one. Be united. I don’t know why they [the supporters] whistle so much.”
Pique is a known supporter of the ‘Guanyarem’ campaign for independent Catalan sport.
When asked whether he would play for a Catalan national team rather than for Spain, Pique said: “At the moment it’s only a hypothesis.
“I don’t play for Spain for money or prestige. I play for a team that has won trebles – I don’t need prestige. I play because I feel it’s the right thing to do.
“If I support the Guanyarem campaign, it’s because the Catalan sports community has done a lot for me.”