With Carles Puyol set to miss the remainder of the season, almost certainly including the European Championships, the rumours have resurfaced that the Barcelona captain is reaching the end of his career. However, considering Puyol’s spritely recovery from the same surgery in the early stage of this season, I would suggest that such rumours are entirely misinformed. On the other hand, Puyol’s absence will have an immediate impact on both club and country – the Blaugrana should be able to cope just fine in their remaining two matches, as will Spain with a bit of shifting around, but with Puyol sidelined for the summer it is clear that both Barcelona and Spain will be forced to plan for a future without Carles Puyol.
For Spain, the situation is a lot more straight-forward: they may lose one of their sure-fire starters, but replace him with another CB from within the top two – Sergio Ramos. This may require a positional change from Vicente Del Bosque’s usual tactics where Ramos usually plays as a right-back, but obviously Ramos has played the entire season in the centre of the defense with Real Madrid and, judging by their league title, it has worked pretty well. This will mean that Alvaro Arbeloa is likely to move to right-back, with the left-back spot vacant.
Then Barcelona become involved in the situation.
Even without Carles Puyol’s injury, it is clear that the Blaugrana are in desperate need of defensive reinforcements. Whether they look to the B team or to the transfer market depends on whose reports you read. Anyway, Spain need a left-back for the European Championship, and one must imagine that Jordi Alba is odds on to fill that vacancy, unless Del Bosque opts to keep Arbeloa on the left with Andoni Iraola filling in at right-back. If Jordi Alba starts for Spain in Euro 2012 and Spain play well (which is pretty much a foregone conclusion) then maybe the interest in the Valencia full-back will intensify, either forcing Barcelona into an early bid (say pre-Euro 2012), or into a bidding war (perhaps inflating his price to €15-20 million), or worse, Barcelona lose out on Alba all together.
Then we have the problem with the injury itself. Barcelona should be able to cope just fine without their talismanic skipper on the field against Real Betis and then in the Copa del Rey final versus Athletic Bilbao, but would Puyol’s injury impact Tito Vilanova’s transfer dealings?
First off, about Puyol’s injury, according to the official site it is the same operation as last year, just on the other knee. Now, each operation will naturally be different and recovery will also alter, but taking this year as a rough guide, we know that this injury/surgery combination alone will not be enough to impact Puyol’s career, and if anything, could be beneficial in the long run. After last year’s surgery I remember reading a quote from the doctor saying that Carles’ cartilage was as good as a 15 or 16 year old. Could this operation potentially end Puyol’s knee trouble?
Well, the numbers speak for themselves. After returning early in the season, Puyol has gone on to play over 40 games for the club, with that figure almost certainly pushing 50 if you include national team appearances. And all that without a proper pre-season. It’s hardly surprising given Puyol’s super-human determination and high tolerance to pain, but with his first summer off to truly rest and recover (at least without extensive physiotherapy) Puyol may well be in peak conditioning both physically and mentally for next season, especially if he does follow through with his plans to retire from international duty.
With rumours continuing to circulate involving the transfer of Thiago Silva to Barcelona, Puyol’s surgery might just save the club some money. After all, no matter how good Silva is, he is not Carles Puyol.