Sad news today as Barça captain Carles Puyol announced he will be leaving Barça at the end of the season. In a press conference today at 4 pm the player declared that he doesn’t know what he will do in June but he will not continue at the club. Puyol will be remembered as Barça’s greatest ever captain after a glorious 15-year career as a first team player.
Puyol made his Barça debut under Louis van Gaal at Valladolid on 2 October 1999. His first couple of seasons saw him employed as a right-back before his versatility later saw him moved to the centre of defence. His first great performance for Barça saw him completely nullify Luis F*go as Barça beat Real Madrid 2-0 on the Portuguese’s first return to Camp Nou (the pig’s head came the following season).
Puyol was one of the few shining stars of the disappointing Joan Gaspart years and he would have to wait until Joan Laporta arrived as President with Frank Rijkaard as first-team coach to achieve the titles his commitment deserved. Rijkaard made him captain in the summer of 2004 and in his first season with the new responsibility he led the team to its first Liga since 1999. Another league followed in the 2005/06 season with the crowning success of the Champions League triumph in Paris.
After the disappointing last two years of the Rijkaard the arrival of Pep Guardiola led to the most successful period in the club’s history with Puyi the leader on the pitch. Lifting trophies become a regular part of the job for the Barça captain while his performances remained at an excellent level such as when he reverted to right-back for the 2009 Champions League final and dominated Cristiano Ronaldo in the final half hour.
He was never the most naturally gifted of players but he made up for his flaws with hard work and tremendous dedication. His bravery became legendary and it didn’t matter whether he needed a facemark or a stitch stapled into his eyebrow, he has always been willing to give everything for the cause. He was also a great team-mate as demonstrated when he gave the honour of receiving the 2011 Champions League trophy to Eric Abidal.
Besides the 21 trophies he won with Barça he also found success with Spain at international level. He appeared 100 times for La Roja and was a key part in the 2008 Eurocopa and 2010 World Cup triumphs which were both notable for Spain’s solid defence. It should not be forgotten either that he scored the only goal in the 2010 semi-final against Germany. His performances earned him a place in the UEFA Team of the Year in 2002, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010 and a place in FIFA’s ideal team in 2007, 2008 and 2010.
It has been clear this season that injuries and age are catching up with him and his body can lo longer perform as it once could. It is a sad day for Barça but we should applaud Puyol for being honest enough to recognise his current level. He could have gone on cashing a fat pay check until 2016 but he knows his limitations now and has made the noble decision not to be a burden on the club.
I hope Carles Puyol can continue playing next season and for many seasons after that. He can offer excellent experience wherever he goes and you can be sure he will continue to give 100%. For now, thanks for all the good times Capità, you will never be forgotten.