Gerard Piqué has insisted that he is proud to represent the Spanish national team, despite accusations to the contrary in the Spanish media.
According to Marca, the Spanish sports daily, the Barcelona and Spain defender penned an article for The Players' Tribune, in which he declared, "I'm extremely proud to wear the badge every four years at the World Cup."
However, the former Manchester United man also reaffirmed his controversial support for a Catalan independence referendum: "The 7.5 million people from my homeland of Catalonia have the right to vote on this question in a peaceful manner."
Piqué explained his personal dilemma, being both a proud Spanish international and a proud Catalan: "It's a tricky position for me to be in, personally, because the happiest moment of my life was winning the World Cup for Spain, but, on the other hand, being Catalan is in my blood."
Piqué was also highly critical of his treatment in the Spanish media, adding that he has never campaigned for Catalan independence: "They'll say that I'm a traitor, and that I want to tear the country apart because of my public support for the Catalan people's right to vote in the independence referendum.
"I have never even commented on how I would vote."
In spite of the hostility he has received from Spanish media and fans alike, Piqué insisted he did not regret expressing his opinions: "When 80 percent of people in Catalonia say they want the right to vote, I believe they should be heard.
"If that opinion makes my own countrymen dislike me ... well, I am perfectly tranquil with that thought."
Gerard Piqué has been capped 95 times for Spain, scoring five goals and winning both the FIFA World Cup in 2010 and the European Championship in 2012.