In Brief

Catalonia independence: Gerard Pique offers to quit Spain team

Barcelona defender would stand down ahead of World Cup if he is ‘too problematic’

The controversial pro-independence referendum in Catalonia threatens to rock the football world after Gerard Pique offered to leave Spain’s team. 

 The Barcelona and Spain defender has long been a vocal supporter of Catalonian independence, and said he would quit the national side if his political views were a “problem”.

He was pictured yesterday casting his vote in the referendum, deemed illegal by the Spanish government. Afterwards he wrote on Twitter: “I have already voted. Together we are unstoppable defending democracy.”

An overwhelming 90% of voters expressed a desire to break free from Spain in the vote, which was marred by violence. Meanwhile, Barcelona’s La Liga clash against Las Palmas was played behind closed doors at Camp Nou. Barca had asked for a postponement, but La Liga refused the request: the club later claimed that the league had threatened them with a points deduction if they cancelled the fixture.

Following the match, Pique described it as his “hardest game”, and said he was prepared to quit Spain duty before the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia.

“If any directors or if the Spanish FA believe that I could be a problem or annoy the national team then I am willing to step aside,” the tearful defender told Marca

“I am proud of the Catalan people. This has been my worst experience.”

Pique joins the Spanish squad this week for their fixtures against Albania and Israel. He already has a strained relationship with Spain teammate Sergio Ramos, of Real Madrid, and was booed by Spanish fans during the crucial World Cup qualifier against Italy last month.

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