Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez has threatened to stoke tensions in the Spain squad after again criticising the manner in which Real Madrid players have reacted to defeat.
There have long been concerns that the ferocious rivalry between the two clubs may cause disharmony in the national set-up, and coach Vicente Del Bosque recently confirmed there were issues between Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos. “If Pique and Ramos do not get along, they’ll be dropped,” Del Bosque said. “They are young kids with their differences, but we have no problems.”
Xavi has now risked provoking the Real Madrid players in the squad as he repeated comments he made in January and April suggesting Barca’s players have a more sporting approach.
“We have congratulated them when they won,” he told Canal+. “That is sport at the end of the day. We have been very respectful with them. However, I have noted that it wasn't the same in reverse.”
With seven Barcelona players and five Real Madrid players in Spain’s Euro 2012 squad, concerns will be raised as to the mood of the camp.
Nonetheless, after Luis Aragones steered the team to Euro 2008 glory and Del Bosque took them to their first World Cup triumph two years later, Xavi is upbeat about the team’s chances this summer.
“The national team now lives in a peaceful environment,” he said. “Before, the people didn't believe in us. I heard that these players can't pass the quarter-final, I saw front pages saying they didn't believe in us and this hurt.
“Luis cleared the path for the national team with a style that continues not just because it brought success but because the fans liked it, identified it and could be proud of the way Spain played. Del Bosque and the trainers that came had to understand that this philosophy couldn't be lost.”