Lopetegui: Pique part of Spain’s soul

Julen Lopetegui insists Gerard Pique remains “part of Spain’s soul”, despite the Barcelona defender appearing to support Catalan independence.

Pique seemingly encouraged the Catalan people to vote for cession from Spain in Sunday’s referendum, but Lopetegui made it clear he would only be judged on his sporting performance and not his politics.

“Pique? I want to focus on our games and qualification,” the Coach said at a Press conference for La Roja’s final 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Albania and Israel.

“Several sportspeople have talked about it, but I judge my players on their performance and attitude.

“I don’t have any doubts about Gerard. He’ll train with us on Monday and he’ll be one more player for us.

“My reality is sport and Gerard is part of the Spanish national team’s soul. There’s no doubt about it. We won’t allow anything or anyone to divert us.

“The noise on the outside does us no good. I’ve heard what Sergio said and it has nothing to do with what it’s been headlined as. He acted like a captain.

“I’d be annoyed and concerned if the lads didn’t have the right passion and attitude, but that isn’t the case.

“Costa? It’s good news. Now we know which team he belongs to. When he gets back to competing, we’ll have him in our prayers.

“Villa? He’s been recovering from his injury and he doesn’t have the sharpness he had before. [His absence] is only because of that.

“Morata? What he’s doing is good news for us, he’s responding well and become a better player. He doesn’t have to stop.

“Marcos Alonso? He’s playing at a very high level, like Alberto Moreno.

“They haven’t done anything wrong, but we have Alba and Monreal in that position and they’re doing very well with us.

“Problems in the Federation? That doesn’t worry me. We could ask for help from the outside, but if no such help is forthcoming then we’ll have to generate it from within.

“Deulofeu? He’s played little this month, he wasn’t called up for their last two games, while Callejon is playing well and scoring goals. That’s why he’s been called up.

“We make the decisions that, we believe, are best. Ancelotti? I don’t like it, whenever there’s a sacking.

“His record is there for all to see, but we already know what football’s like.

“We’re not thinking about the next World Cup. We want to finish our qualifying campaign first.

We’ve called up the players we have because we’re aware of their development.

“We understand that those who have been called are best suited to our upcoming opponents.”

Tags 2018 World Cup Albania Catalan Catalonia Gerard Pique Israel Julen Lopetegui Spain