Gerard Pique to retire from Spain after World Cup as Catalonia independence flap swirls

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Gerard Pique's Spain career will come to an end after the 2018 World Cup. The defender announced that he is ready to step away after the tournament in Russia.

“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.”

When Pique says “people who think it's better if I'm not here,” he is presumably referring to those who have long questioned his place on the national team because of his belief that Catalonia should be an independent country. There is a segment of fans who have booed him and said he shouldn't be allowed to play for Spain.

The discussion of Pique's place in the team picked up when the defender ripped the sleeves off his longsleeve jersey in Spain's 2-0 win over Albania on Sunday. The sleeves were red and yellow, the colors of the Spanish flag, and people speculated that it was a protest by Pique, although after the match he denied that and said that renewed controversy over his place in the team had nothing to do with his retirement decision.

“It's not a 'heat of the moment' decision, I've given a lot of thought to this,” 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.”

Pique believes that after the World Cup, it will be time to turn the team over to a younger generation.

“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 has certainly had an incredible international career and even after he steps away from Spain, he wants to continue playing for Barcelona. But in the meantime, people will continue to speculate about whether or not he is protesting Spain and whether he should be on the team. It's been that way for years and Sunday showed that it's not going to stop anytime soon. He's even acknowledging them in his statements about quitting the national team.

This post used information from the Associated Press.

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