“Thanks Kevin Roldan… it all started with you!”
Few words have divided Spain as much as the ones uttered by Gerard Pique on June 7, 2015, during Barcelona’s treble celebration.
Spain have always been a divided nation and its football, far from the exemption, is more or less the rule. The mega rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona never leaves anyone indifferent in the Iberian Peninsula, particularly if Gerard Pique has anything to do with it.
The 29-year-old Barcelona defender has never been shy with words, particularly on social media. But his mockery aimed at Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid at the end of last year has left an open wound that has even affected the national team.
Since the incident, Pique has suffered from booing and criticism by fans every time he plays for Spain. The relationship with Spanish fans have been so difficult that La Roja decided to play their friendly against England in November 2015 in Alicante, a match that was first scheduled to be play at Santiago Bernabeu.
Vicente Del Bosque has always defended the Catalan centre-back and his commitment with Spain, a commitment that Pique has reassured on many occasions as well. However, the tension with Pique would probably remain until the end of his international career and there is a certain fear in Spain with the possibility of Barcelona winning another treble so close to the Euro 2016. Would Pique hold back his euphoria this time around? Or would he use his favourite app Periscope as a tool to put even more salt in Real Madrid’s wound?
The fact that Madrid came back and won the Clasico certainly avoided a bigger issue for Del Bosque. Surely La Roja’s Coach feared what would have happened if Pique’s goal would have been the winner. But there is still concern about his attitude at the end of the season. Barring any injuries, that would be the only reason why we may not see Pique representing Spain in France during the Euros.
After all, Pique has always been a regular for Spain since his debut in February 2009. A World Cup winner and European champion, Barcelona’s No 3 has more than 70 international matches under his belt and combines with Sergio Ramos as the leaders of the Spanish defence.
At Camp Nou, Pique has had another good season. He has participated in 10 of his team 13 clean sheets, only Jordi Alba with 12 has more in the starting back four. Pique has only been dribbled past 10 times this season – the third best mark between Spanish defenders with more 20 appearances in this La Liga year, while his 15 fouls are also a third-best in Spain between fellow countrymen (minimum 20 appearances).
So Del Bosque would only leave Pique out of the defending champions’ squad due to his mouth, not his skill. The Coach, as well as the rest of Spain, is going to be paying more attention to a Barcelona celebration than any on-field performance to decide if Pique will visit the Eiffel Tower this summer or not.