Barca’s Pique unrepentant over Twitter row
Barcelona defender Gerard Pique on Wednesday refused to apologise for igniting a Twitter row with Real Madrid rivals Alvaro Arbeloa and Sergio Ramos.
No stranger to public spats with Real players, Pique incurred the wrath of his Spain teammates by calling Arbeloa “an acquaintance,” making clear reference to the term “cono” — referencing a traffic cone — an apparent dig at the full-back’s mobility.
Despite flying 10,700 kilometres (6,600 miles) to contest the Club World Cup in Japan, Pique was immediately quizzed about the spat by Spanish journalists on the eve of Barca’s semi-final against China’s Guangzhou Evergrande.
“That’s not a question about sport,” he said with a sheepish grin.
“Look, I said (Arbeloa) wasn’t a friend. Make of it what you want. I don’t have anything to add.”
A war of words erupted after Pique recently posted a tweet appearing to mock Real’s recent expulsion from the Copa del Rey for fielding an ineligible player, prompting Arbeloa to accuse him of being obsessed with Real.
When Pique responded in kind, Ramos waded in by calling on him to show respect, but Pique opted not to inflame the situation ahead of Thursday’s Yokohama clash.
“There has been a lot of fuss about my tweets but feel free to interpret how you want,” he said.
“The role of Sergio Ramos is normal for a captain. He is the Real Madrid captain and a great captain. He came out to defend his teammate and I honestly admire him for that.”
Turning to Thursday’s game, Pique insisted that Barcelona — who lifted the trophy in 2009 and 2011 — would be all business as they chase a record third Club World Cup title.
– Winning philosophy –
“We can’t use jet lag as an excuse, although it does have a strong impact,” said the former Manchester United centre-back.
“We still notice it and we have to bear that in mind for the game tomorrow.
He said the competition gave his team a good chance to continue winning titles.
“We are Barcelona so we must win,” he added.
“We are playing against a different kind of team, in a different environment from usual. Guangzhou are Asian champions and we know they are a dynamic team and it’s a great challenge.”
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique refused to rule Brazilian forward out of playing in Sunday’s final in Yokohama if he recovers from a groin strain in time.
“Neymar continues with his recovery process,” he said.
“Just because you don’t see him training, doesn’t mean he is not training. I am not one in favour of taking risks with injured players.
“We will see, but not before getting to the final. First we have to win the semi-final.”
Enrique insisted the Catalan giants would not underestimate Evergrande, who stunned Mexican side Club America 2-1 in the quarter-finals last weekend, pointing to Brazilians Paulinho and Robinho as potential threats.
“We won’t be overconfident,” he said.
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