It’s an announcement many of us have been expecting for the last few seasons. An announcement that none of us really wanted to hear, but one that we’d undoubtedly have to accept. Barcelona legend and El Capita for ten seasons, Carles Puyol, announced that he would be leaving his hometown club at the end of the 2014 season. It was an emotional press conference to confirm the departure of one of the best central defenders our historic club has ever seen.
Carles Puyol leaves behind a legacy that young footballers can only dream of as children. A child graduate of La Masia like lifelong teammate, Xavi Hernandez, Puyi appeared in nearly 600 official matches with Barcelona. He went on to win 21 major trophies, including six La Liga titles, three UEFA Champions League titles, and the 2010 World Cup title with Spain in South Africa. Puyol was named captain to replace Luis Enrique back in the summer of 2004 and wore the ‘Capitan’ banner donned in the colors of the Catalan flag with pride ever since. From Paris to Rome and Wembley, Puyol was the captain in every Champions League victory
As our great captain aged, injuries came along to sideline him. This lead to speculations that he could end up retiring early after he underwent surgery for a knee injury back in 2012. He also dislocated his elbow after landing awkwardly on it after defending a set piece against Benfica in the Champions League that very same year. It has not been a good run of luck for Puyol’s health since the 2009-2010 season ended. Puyol never once blamed anyone for his run of bad luck and aging form. He’s been quoted as saying (regarding Barcelona): "the team who every Catalan child wants to play for… I am living the dream playing football for Barça and it is my dream to retire playing here." This quote is a reminder to football lovers around the world about how much our club means to him and how much he enjoyed playing with us.
It was certainly not an easy decision for Puyol to make in March of 2014. With injuries piling up, signs of aging and less playing time, he finally decided to call it quits. Perhaps calling it quits is a poor way to describe a man of Carles’ quality. I firmly believe he will end up back at Barcelona after he retires from football all together. Perhaps to manage the first team. Perhaps to be on the board of directors. One thing is for certain, his love for his childhood club was never in question; even during his darkest hours of injury after injury. Some rumors have speculated that he might end up going to the United States to play in the MLS after he leaves Barcelona in the summer of 2014. It’s a difficult pill for many of us to swallow but it is something we have to accept that will ultimately be best for our club as well. Puyol himself offered to help the club find a new central defender to replace him. He felt like he was letting Barcelona down by continuing his poor form and bad luck. The man is truly selfless in the sense that he’s willing to take the blame for issues that were not his fault at all.
It was painful for me to sit down and write about Puyol’s departure from us after such a long career at Barcelona. A career full of respect, loyalty, passion, and heroism. It would be the understatement of the year to say that he will be missed in the central defender role on the pitch. His passion will be missed around Barcelona, whether it’s in the stands, on flights to away matches, in Europe, or in local restaurants. Puyi’s personality was one that melted the hearts of just about everyone he touched during his career. Thank you, Carles. Thank you from the very bottom of our hearts for everything you’ve done for FC Barcelona in the last 20 years. Thank you for being apart of 21 different trophies and bringing numerous smiles to fans around the world. Thank you for being a role model for youngsters who want to be in your position some day after a career of such magnitude. We cannot thank you enough for everything. You will go down in history as our eternal captain that quite possibly could never be replaced, ever again. Again, Gràcies Puyol. Gràcies El Capita. I wish you nothing but the best in what’s next to come for your career and will always be supportive of wherever you end up in the football world.
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