Paper apologises to Pique for alleging he has anti-Spanish sentiments


Too little, too late.

Madrid-based publication AS has issued an apology to Gerard Pique for suggesting that he had cut the sleeves off his national team shirt to rid it of colours from the Spanish flag, rather than simply for reasons of comfort as proven by the Royal Spanish Football Federation in an official statement.

The Barcelona defender was made aware of these claims following Spain's 2-0 World Cup qualifying win in Albania on Sunday, and it appeared to be the final straw for the oft-criticised 85-time international as he announced his impending national team retirement shortly thereafter.

"The 2018 World Cup in Russia will be my last appearance for the Spanish national team," Pique said. "I've thought about it a lot.

"This isn't a spur of the moment decision."

Alfredo Relano, editor of AS, wrote in apology, with translation from ESPN FC:

I offer Pique our apologies for the hastiness with which, for 20 minutes, this newspaper's online version initially reported on the storm whipped up on social media.

He has always been a model Spain player, like so many others from his club. Barcelona have contributed more men to the Spain team throughout their history than any other side, it should not be forgotten.

Pique, 29, has been a contentious figure among La Roja support despite collecting winners' medals in the 2010 World Cup and at Euro 2012 because of his ardent views on Catalonia separating from the rest of Spain. Although this hasn't evidently inhibited his performances for his country, it has drawn the ire of some sections of the team's fan base.

Former Spain boss Javier Clemente pledged his support for Pique, a player who has proven himself to be refreshingly outspoken - particularly in comparison to the safe-talk and cliches that come from his contemporaries in the game.

"Pique's a player who says things others don't because he's brave," said Clemente, who was last in charge of Libya.

"He's a player that says what he feels and to me he seems really honest, because he's really sincere, and sometimes that sincerity works against him.

"If he says he's leaving the national team because he has suffered criticism - and I think there has been a lot (of criticism) - and he's tired of it all and thinks it's best to leave, then I praise him for his sincerity."

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