Anti-Madrid & pro-Catalunya – How Pique became Spain’s public enemy No.1

piiiThe defender has been booed by fans of La Roja in the last two games and is also being unfairly targeted by the media for his political views and mocking of Barca’s big rivals

 

Gerard Pique is a marked man. The Catalan centre-back is at the eye of another storm after he was booed by Spain fans on Saturday night and then caught on camera emerging from a nightclub in the early hours of Sunday morning. Despite returning to his best on the pitch, he continues to court controversy off it.

The 28-year-old’s international career looked very much in the balance a year ago as he struggled at the World Cup in Brazil, was dropped by coach Vicente del Bosque (even while others were just as bad or arguably even worse) and then punished by Barcelona boss Luis Enrique too as he was left out for four league matches in a row.

Pique sought the advice of former defensive partner and club captain Carles Puyol and admitted in an interview that he no longer considered himself one of the best centre-backs in the world. That was a challenge to himself to regain the fantastic form he had shown between 2008 and 2012. And against the odds, he managed it with some peerless performances in the second half of 2014-15, making himself an immovable object at the back as Barca won the treble.

But during the celebrations at Camp Nou, Pique poked fun at Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo as he said: “Thanks Kevin Roldan – it all started with you!”. That was a reference to the Colombian singer’s appearance at the Portuguese’s controversial 30th birthday party in the capital, which came just hours after Los Blancos had suffered a damaging defeat against Atletico in La Liga, losing 4-0 to their city rivals at the Vicente Calderon.

Real are of course a hugely popular club throughout Spain and Pique’s words did not go down well with many fans of La Roja. In their next match, against Costa Rica in Leon, the centre-back was jeered by fans as he got off the team bus, outside the hotel and also when his name was read out by the stadium announcer.

Suspended for the 1-0 win in Belarus three days later, the defender returned to the starting line-up against Slovakia in Oviedo on Saturday night and was booed by a sector of supporters every time he touched the ball, while others offered cheers to drown out the jeers.

“Pique is committed,” Pedro said the following day. “I don’t think the whistles will affect him. Let’s hope this is resolved quickly.” Barca team-mate Jordi Alba added: “I don’t think it’s right at all. He’s always committed to the national team and always says he’s honoured to play for Spain. People are free to form their own opinions on players, but I don’t like it when they boo Pique or anyone else.”

Hours later, however, a video of Pique emerging from a nightclub in Gijon was all over the Spanish press. In the footage filmed at 6am on Sunday morning, the player is seen being escorted to a waiting car amid shouts of “Pique, you’re drunk!”

 

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