Not giving in to critics, Pique commits to Spain

Andres Iniesta Albania Spain 09102016

"We are disappointed not to be able to talk and focus on the upcoming games against Albania or Israel - we must focus on discussing the game and nothing else".

"I've considered retiring as it would be easier for my teammates, but that would be a victory for those whistling".

Spain midfielders Thiago Alcantara and Koke have admitted they are growing exhausted of questions about Gerard Pique's role with the national team.

Meanwhile, Pique urged Spanish and Catalan politicians to open a dialogue and find a solution to the crisis after Carles Puigdemont, the leader of the autonomous region, vowed to declare independence from Spain in a matter of days.

The defender said at a press conference that "I think that a pro-independence supporter could play with Spain because there is no Catalan national team, and a pro-independence support has nothing against Spain". "I think that trying to turn this around is a challenge for me and I will try to do this".

The player has been the subject of chants, banners and taunts over the past few years and Pique is forced to speak about it during every worldwide break. I don't see why I shouldn't bring him to the team. "A pro-independent can play for the Spain national team". "I won't say [if I am in favour of independence]".

Pique has won 91 caps for Spain, while Ramos has 153 global appearances to his name.

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"I have been here since I was 15", he said. It's one of the big reasons why I'm still here.

The 30-year-old has previously stated his desire to retire after next year's World Cup in Russia and hinted he could walk away even sooner should head coach Julen Lopetegui or the Spanish federation regard his political stance as problematic. I'm hurt that people judge my commitment.

"I have said it many times, I am very proud to be part of the Spanish selection and a group capable of winning all the titles here. If we win we are virtually qualified for the World Cup and that is what we have to focus on".

"But if that happened, there would be a process of three, four years [before Catalan independence became a reality] like Brexit - so I'd be 33 or so, and I don't think I'd have to make that decision, so I haven't considered it".

Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos have patched up their differences and the Spain squad has united ahead of a crucial week in their bid to reach next summer's World Cup.

Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.

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