Spain's Gerard Pique 'wears heart on sleeve' over Catalan jibes, says to quit in 2018

Pique said he was tired of all the criticism he has been facing and that he intends to give up playing for Spain.

Gerard Pique
Pique said constant criticism has killed his joy of playing for Spain Reuters

Spain defender Gerard Pique said he will retire from international football after the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia.

Under-fire Pique was caught in another storm during his national side's 2-0 win in the World Cup qualifier clash against Albania on Sunday as he was seen wearing his team's new away white jersey without Spain's colours of red and yellow.

The Barcelona star, who has been facing the wrath of Spanish supporters and media in the country for his reported involvement in the Catalan independence movement, said he was forced to make the decision as he was "tired" of constant criticism.

Notably, the 29-year-old faced the brunt of Real Madrid fans after he had reportedly mocked the club over Cristiano Ronaldo's birthday celebrations following Barcelona's treble in the 2014/15 season.

Also, Pique was at the receiving end of jeers from the supporters during Spain's 2016 European Championship qualifying campaign after which his teammates lashed out at the behaviour of the fans and came to his support.

"They have succeeded in killing my joy in playing for Spain and even though after Russia I will only be 31, I am going to quit then. I have always tried to give everything but while some people appreciate that others think it's better for me not to be with Spain," Pique was quoted as saying by the Reuters.

"I cut my shirt because the sleeves were very short and they were bothering me. I have tried everything but I can not take it any more, the thing with the sleeve is the straw that has broken the camel's back.

"Yes, I am tired of it [criticism] and the World Cup in Russia is going to be my last commitment with the Spain team and then I hope I can be left in peace."

The Royal Spanish Football Federation defended its star defender saying Pique had his full sleeves short to feel more comfortable. It added the full sleeve shirts did not have the bands and Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos was wearing one of them as well.

"The RFEF wishes to explain that said band on the Adidas jersey only exists in the short sleeve version, and not on the long sleeve, which is the one Piqué used in the match. Gerard Piqué cut the sleeve with the sole aim of playing more comfortably, the same way other players have done on many occasions," a statement on Spanish Football Team's official website read.