BARCELONA: Barcelona’s Spain defender Gerard Pique has confirmed his retirement from international football.
The 31-year-old centre-back made 102 appearances for his country between 2009 and 2018, scoring five times.
He was part of the Spain team that won their first World Cup in 2010, before adding the 2012 European Championship.
His appearances were often greeted with jeers and whistles by Spanish fans, partly because of his support for Catalonia’s independence referendum.
Catalonia, a region of 7.5 million people in north-eastern Spain, has its own language and culture and Barcelona is its capital.
Pique had declared his intention to quit international football after the 2018 World Cup following a qualifier against Albania in October 2016, when he said he was tired of criticism and wanted “to be left in peace”.
He remains a divisive figure within Spain, and has often been critical of Barca’s club rivals Real Madrid.
Pique did not immediately confirm his retirement following Spain’s exit from the World Cup, when they lost on penalties to hosts Russia in the last 16.
His expected decision comes despite former Barca boss Luis Enrique having since been appointed Spain’s manager.
“I spoke to Luis Enrique a few days ago. He called me and I told him the decision was taken a long time ago and that I had thought about it carefully,” Pique said on Saturday.
“It was a beautiful time with the national team in which I had the chance to win the World Cup and the European Championship. Now I want to focus on Barca,” he added.
“I have a few years left here and I’m going to enjoy them a lot.”
Barca, who won the Spanish double last season, play Sevilla in the Spanish Super Cup in Tangier, Morocco, on Sunday.