Stoichkov frustrated by Pique critics

With Gerard Pique at the centre of another controversy with the Spain national team, Hristo Stoichkov has backed the Barcelona defender.

Former Barcelona star Hristo Stoichkov has blasted those who have criticised Gerard Pique's commitment to the Spain national team.

Pique's outspoken views on Catalan independence have made a target for criticism from Spain fans, and he has now been accused of disrespecting his country by trimming the sleeves on his shirt for the match against Albania - supposedly removing the national flag.

The Barcelona defender subsequently announced that he plans to retire from international football after the 2018 World Cup, leaving Stoichkov frustrated by his condemnation.

"I am in favour of Pique," he told Cadena COPE. "How many times has played with the national team while injured? And how many while bleeding? And then they do not say anything?

"Now, if the sleeves are trimmed, they are drooling - it's so clear."

LFP president Javier Tebas as also had his say, insisting this is a political issue rather than a football one.

"It's more a political issue than a footballing one," he said. "He's a very intelligent boy. He has his business, he's a restless man.

"He has shown his commitment to the national team many times. I think he's tired. Hopefully he'll rethink what he's said."