Spain's Gerard Pique to quit national team over sleeves row


Spanish defender Gerard Pique has announced he will quit international duty - after a row about cutting up his sleeves.

During his side's 2-0 win over Albania on Sunday, Pique, who has come under fire in the past from some Spanish supporters due to his pro-Catalonia stance, chose to cut off the sleeves of his long-sleeved shirt rather than wear the short-sleeved version. The short sleeves contain the colours of the Spanish flag.

Pique said the long sleeves of his shirt were bothering him, and that's why he cut them off.

A statement from the Spanish FA said Pique cut the sleeves "with the sole aim of playing more comfortably, the same way other players have done on many occasions".

The defender, who has 85 international caps, said he no longer feels wanted by the team and will quit international duty after the Russia World Cup in 2018.

In a press release from the Spanish FA, Pique said: "I have tried everything, but I can't bear this any more. Today's issue of the sleeves is the straw that breaks the camel. They've managed to make me lose the excitement of coming here and, although after Russia I'll only be 31, I'll leave."

Pique hold the World Cup
Pique won the World Cup with Spain in 2010 (Martin Meissner/AP)

Elsewhere, Pique indicated the decision had been coming for some time.

The 29-year-old, who has two children with his singer girlfriend Shakira, said: "It's not a heat-of-the-moment decision, I've given a lot of thought to this. 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 okay for me to be here."

Pique also cited wanting to make room for younger players as a reason for his retirement, but said he would try to play his 100th game in the meantime - and win the World Cup again. Pique helped Spain win the World Cup in 2010, and the European Championship in 2012, but despite the achievements some in Spain will welcome the news.

But not everyone is convinced the move will be good for Spanish football.

At his Spanish club Barcelona he has won six La Liga titles, three club World cups and three Champions Leagues.

Pique added: "Life goes on. I still want to be with Barcelona for several years."

Pique lifting Champions League trophy
Barcelona last won the Champions League in 2015 (Luca Bruno/AP)