Spanish defender Gerard Pique has announced the 2018 Russia World Cup will be the final tournament of his international career amid renewed controversy over his political views, which have made him feel unwanted in Spain’s national team.

Spain’s Gerard Piqué Says He Will Quit International Soccer

The 29-year-old Barcelona star, who supports independence for Catalonia, made the announcement following Spain’s 2-0 win at Albania on Sunday in European FIFA World Cup Qualifying. Spain currently lead Group G, with only first place giving automatic qualification.

Pique, who played in the Spain team that won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, was lambasted by the country’s media for allegedly removing the national colors (red and yellow) from his playing strip.

The accusations marked the last straw for the defenseman, who has made 85 career international appearances in total.

“The World Cup in Russia is going to be my last tournament with the national team,,” he said after the game in Shkoder, Albania.

“This is not a decision that I have taken today, I have been thinking about it. But the criticisms today have added to what has happened over the last few years.”

After Pique cut the sleeves of his team uniform, the Spanish Football Federation jumped to defend him, noting that the Spanish colors did not feature on the team strip worn in Albania.

A federation statement said the national colors: “only appear on the short-sleeved version of the team strip and not on the long-sleeved model worn by Pique.”

Pique also added that he wanted to make way for younger players: “You need to give them some space,” he said. “I’ll be 31, I’ve won everything with the national team. I’ll try to play my 100th game with the team, and I want to win the World Cup again, which is the most important thing.”

The wealthy Catalan region has been seeking greater autonomy from Madrid in recent years, and regional lawmakers last month approved a plan to call a referendum next year on independence. Nevertheless, some members of Spain’s national team have shunned Pique for supporting this movement.

Pique, who has two children with his long-term partner, Colombian singer Shakira, has also won six Spanish league titles with Barcelona, as well as three club World Cups and three Champions Leagues.

“Although there are some people who have thanked me, some don’t think it’s OK for me to be here,” the defender added. “Life goes on. I still want to be with Barcelona for several years.”

Chelsea striker Diego Costa and Manchester City’s Nolito each scored a goal in Spain’s win over Albania on Sunday. Costa took advantage of an error by Albania goalkeeper Etrit Berisha in the 56th minute to break the deadlock, and substitute Nolito then finished off a slick team move to seal the big victory.

Spain, who drew with Italy 1-1 in World Cup Qualifying last week, will next face Macedonia on Nov. 12.

TURIN, ITALY – OCTOBER 06: Gerard Pique of Spain and Eder of Italy fight for the ball during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Italy and Spain at Juventus Stadium on October 6, 2016 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)

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