Julen Lopetegui says Gerard Pique remains motivated to perform for Spain

Gerard Pique of Spain looks on during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Spain and Italy

Spain coach Julen Lopetegui has praised Barcelona defender Gerard Pique's commitment to the national team.

Lopetegui called on his squad to be focused only on football, despite the crisis in Spain regarding Catalonia's push for independence.

Pique has been outspoken in his support of Catalans, and was booed by fans on Monday when he reported to the national team's training camp in Madrid ahead of the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers.

However, Lopetegui said in an interview with local radio station COPE that the central defender remained "motivated", despite the reception he received.

"His (Pique's) behaviour with the national team has always been very good," said Lopetegui.

"We are focused on the important game against Albania. We will need the support of Alicante and its great fans in order to take a big step toward the World Cup."

The coach said players have the right to express their opinions privately, but have to try to avoid adding to the "unpleasant situation" generated by Catalonia's bid for independence.

Pique has played almost 100 times for Spain but voted in the contentious independence referendum in Catalonia on Sunday.

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Bayern Munich midfielder and Spain team-mate Thiago Alcantara told reporters on Tuesday: "When I've come (to the Spain camp) Pique has always had the same attitude, commitment and happiness.

"(The situation) saddens us because we come here to talk about football, I'm not here to talk about the life of anybody.

"It saddens me not to be able to be comfortable and talk about Albania (who Spain play on October 6 in Alicante)."

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