Gerard Pique
Pique said playing for Spain fills him with pride Reuters

Barcelona centre-back Gerard Pique has made it clear that he is proud to play for Spain despite backing a Catalan independence referendum.

Pique, 30, was named in Spain's squad for their World Cup qualifiers against Albania and Israel in October.

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On Thursday, Pique called for peaceful expression of opinions ahead of the planned referendum, as reported by Marca. The centre-back, who has played 91 games for Spain, said he was delighted to be included in Julen Lopetegui's squad.

"I am very happy to return and see if we can win the first game which would classify us, which is what is important, and be once again in the World Cup finals," said the Barcelona centre-half.

"I have always said that to play for the national team is a pride and a great motivation. The fact that the coach has called me up again shows that I am doing things well."

Pique put up a tweet recently backing freedom of expression ahead of the planned vote on Sunday over the referendum and fellow national team defender and Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos responded saying that it was not the right way to go if he wanted Spain fans to stop whistling him, risking a rift in the team a week before two crucial World Cup qualifiers.

"Everyone is free to say what they think, although as a captain I'm always concerned about the atmosphere in the team and Pique knew what he was doing. Maybe it wasn't the right time to do that and it doesn't help a lot," Ramos said, as reported by the Dailymail.

Spain begin preparations for their final two World Cup qualifiers next week, hosting Albania on Friday and visiting Israel on Monday.

They need four points from the two games to book their place in Russia.