Spain and Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has announced that he will be retiring from international football after the 2018 World Cup in Russia, having grown tired of the incessant criticism from the Spanish federation and the media.
Pique has been a contentious figure in the Spain ranks for his public backing of Catalan independence, which came to light yet again following their 2-0 win over Albania in the World Cup Qualifiers where he was accused by the Press of cutting his shirt sleeves in order to remove the parts which held the design of the Spain national flag, leading to a lot of criticism from all quarters.
However, the defender proved his innocence by showing that he had in fact cut the corners of a shirt which did not have the aforementioned design.
"I've tried everything but I cannot take any more," he said in a statement released by the Royal Spanish Football Federation, as quoted by Goal. "Today with the sleeves is the straw that breaks the camel's back. They've made it so I've lost the excitement of coming here, and although after Russia I'll only be 31, I'll leave."
The Federation came out in support of Pique and backed his claims that the shortening of his sleeves had nothing to do with the Spanish flag. The 29-year-old is likely to keep playing for Barcelona beyond the end of the World Cup.
"The Royal Spanish Football Federation wants to show their support for the Spanish international Gerard Pique regarding the controversy caused by the cutting of long sleeves of his shirt in the match played against Albania," a statement read.
"Contrary to what was indicated by some malicious comments - that the player cut his sleeves to avoid wearing a top with the national colours - the RFEF wishes to clarify that this trimming only exists in the Adidas short-sleeve shirt, and not in the long sleeves, which is what Pique wore in the match. This lack of trimming can be seen on the shirt of his partner, Sergio Ramos, who also worse long sleeves.
"The player cut his sleeves with the sole purpose of playing more comfortably, like other internationals have done on many occasions. Unfair criticism of Gerard Pique has caused him to declare that he will leave the Spanish team after the World Cup in Russia."