Gerard Pique says his decision to retire from the Spanish national team after the next World Cup is final — and admits that he was close to giving up football altogether in 2014.
The Barcelona defender announced his retirement earlier this month after Spain’s recent win over Albania, when stories surfaced claiming he’d cut the Spanish colours off the sleeves of his shirt.
However, those stories were proven to be misleading, although the damage was done, with Pique confirming that he would hang his boots up from international football after the World Cup in Russia in 2018.
“Yes, it is a final decision,” Pique told a news conference ahead of Barca’s Champions League game with Manchester City.
“I didn’t want to announce my decision then [after Albania], but I wasn’t too happy with the stories which were later proven to be false, so I felt the need to announce it then.
“I’ve read that Twitter, stories in newspapers, Florentino [Perez’s] puppet at OK Diario kicked me out, but this is a decision I took myself, because I think I deserve to leave how and when I want to, when I’m 31 after the World Cup.
“If the coach [Julen Lopetegui] continues to call me up, I will have played for Spain for 10 years and I think that’s the best option for me, to take a step to the side and allow future generations to take the space I’ve taken over this time.”
Pique was adamant that the decision was not taken with haste and confirmed that as little as two years ago he’d even considered leaving the game completely.
The 29-year-old explained that he’d begun to lose his motivation to play football, but talks with several people in the game prompted a U-turn.
“After the  World Cup I spoke to people, with [Vicente] del Bosque and other coaches and said I didn’t want to continue, but I was convinced to changed my mind,” he added.
“It was a question of motivation — I didn’t have any. Maybe that was because I’d won so much so young.
“But with Luis Enrique giving us more, feeling comfortable at Barca, also in the national team, and also publicly saying I want to be best in the world again, I realised I had to be back.
“I’ve grown, I feel I’m in the best moment of my career. I feel I can compete in many respects, I’m enjoying my game more than ever and hope to continue at this level.”
And having reversed that decision and got his career back on track, Pique is now hoping to extend his time at Barca for a while yet.
“I’ve thought about it thoroughly and I will try to extend my time here as much as possible,” he said. “This is the club of my life, the club I love.
“Let’s see my condition as I age, my body and head will set the time when I leave. Motivation is also key, getting up and wanting to be better every day.”