Barcelona: Spain centre-back Gerard Pique confirmed that he had ended a glittering international career on Saturday, saying that the appointment of his former Barcelona coach Luis Enrique would not change his mind.
The 31-year-old made the last of his 102 international appearances in Spain’s World Cup last-16 loss to Russia.
Enrique took over as coach after the World Cup last month, which saw Fernando Hierro in temporary charge following the shock sacking of Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the tournament.
“I talked to him (Enrique) a week or two ago. I told him that the decision was already made,” Pique said ahead of Sunday’s Spanish Super Cup against Sevilla.
Pique is the latest member of the great World Cup-winning Spanish side to quit the national team, following the likes of former Barcelona teammates Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta.
His defensive partnership with Carles Puyol was key to Spain’s maiden World Cup title in 2010, while he also won Euro 2012.
“It was a great stage at the Euros and World Cup,” added Pique.
“I’m very happy to have participated in all these successes, but now I want to focus on Barca. I have three years left here and the more the better.”
Pique said making the Spanish Super Cup a one-off game rather than a two-legged contest is a welcome development — but his coach, Ernesto Valverde, is not so sure.
The Spanish Football Federation has settled on the single-game format for Sunday’s encounter between Liga champions and Copa del Rey holders Barca and cup runners-up Sevilla, which will be played outside the country for the first time.
It says the change was a result of a lack of available dates because of Sevilla’s involvement in Europa League qualifiers — but it has been fiercely criticised by Sevilla’s president Jose Castro.
Pique welcomed the prospect of fewer games — although he conceded that playing the game in Tangier, Morocco, was not ideal.
“Anything that shortens the schedule is good for the players,” Pique told a news conference ahead of the game.
“There are many players who haven’t played even a friendly game because if (they had) we would have had no holidays.
“Every year there are more and more games, especially in World Cup years, so playing one game rather than two is much better.” Pique admitted: “Playing in Tangier means the conditions will not be the best but we will adapt.” Valverde believes this year’s format will make the Super Cup harder to win for his side.
“Playing one game makes it more open, as with a second leg you can correct things,” he said. “Now we only have 90 minutes and it levels the playing field.” He added: “Sevilla have the advantage that they have been competing for two or three weeks, so they will be more up to speed, while we’ve come back from a pre-season tour and some players have returned a little late, while there are also some new faces. So we have to adjust a bit.
“But we are still excited about the opportunity of winning our first trophy of the season.” ‘WE HAVE A CHANCE’ Barca beat Sevilla 5-0 on aggregate in the 2016 Spanish Super Cup but crashed 5-1 to Real Madrid in last year’s competition.
Sevilla also lost 5-0 to Barca in last season’s Copa del Rey final and finished 35 points adrift of the Catalans in La Liga.
New coach Pablo Machin is under no illusions as to who the favourites are in Sunday’s game.
“It’s obvious that Barca are a super team and specialists in winning finals, and they have many of the best players in the world,” said Machin, who was appointed Sevilla boss in June after an impressive spell in charge of Girona. “But football is one of the few games in which an inferior team can beat a superior one — and we have a chance.”