El Gran Capitán - David Ramos
Less than five weeks after dislocating his elbow in a scary tumble against Benfica, Puyol is back training with Barcelona.
We've seen it before—every season it seems—Carles Puyol getting hurt. Most recently, in his first game back after recovering from a knee injury, Puyol went up for a corner kick and came down on his arm awkwardly. It looked like his arm had snapped in half, and everybody was relieved to discover he'd merely dislocated his elbow. The prognosis for recovery was placed at two months.
We've seen something else before: Puyol recovering faster than expected. So it should come as no surprise that the captain is back training again today—apparently at full speed. And while he won't be included in Tito's lineup for Sunday's clash against Mallorca, one would expect Puyol to be available for Barcelona's next match against Zaragoza on November 17th.
Carles Puyol's competitive spirit and wolverine-like healing powers deserve recognition. Despite the incredible disappointment of being forced back to the bench immediately after a lengthy and painful recovery from a knee injury—and the beginning of yet another rehab journey—Puyol remained upbeat and jovial, attending practice and encouraging his teammates. Given 8 weeks to recover, Puyol did it in five (one imagines he had his eyes set on playing against Mallorca or even Celtic).
There's a very good chance Puyol will be hurt again. He plays with reckless abandon, seeming to enter a sort of competitive trance where his heart takes control of his body and he feels no pain. At 34 years old, and after 13 years of top-flight football, we all know his career is coming to a close. But try telling that to Carles Puyol. He'll say he's far from finished, and as evidence he'll play another 90 minutes of the most ferocious football you've ever seen.
Barcelona needs new talent in the center of defense, and despite my optimism for Puyol's and Abidal's return to form, something must be done to address this weakness. But for now let's appreciate the courage and heart of Carles Puyol, el gran capitán, and let's give him the honor of deciding when it's time to step aside. Let's savor the sight of his flowing mane, his last-ditch diving tackles, and let's hope he finishes the season healthy, because not only do FC Barcelona 2012/2013 desperately need him, there will never be another defender, another captain, or another football player quite like him.