Report: A knee injury, and the subsequent surgery, that prematurely ended Carles Puyol's previous season resulted in the captain missing the beginning of this campaign. Four months after the operation Puyol was back on the pitch, and he was looking livelier than he did in 2010-11. The left knee was completely fixed and for the first time in months Puyol was playing without pain.
And it showed on the pitch. Puyol was again his usual commanding self, running people down and not giving the opponents an inch. He regained the pace that was missing last season when he was bothered by the pain in the knee.
This season the captain was much more involved in the attacking aspect of the game than he has been in previous seasons. Puyol scored a career high five goals (which is more than the likes off Isaac Cuenca and Thiago did), and also added four assists. Two of the five goals he scored accounted for his first career goals in the Copa del Rey - the first one coming against Barça's greatest rival, Real Madrid.
But it wasn't always easy for Puyol this season as he often found himself playing with a different center-back partner, mainly because of injuries to his teammates. This season Puyol also featured at both right and left back positions. He held his own on both sides but at this age he lacks the pace to track speedy wingers. However, he was rarely beat because of his incredible positioning sense and anticipation.
Puyol's 2011-12 season finished on a sad note as he was ruled out of the Copa del Rey final and the EURO 2012 with another knee injury. The surgery to repair the damaged right knee was successful.
Inder Methil's View: Carles Puyol.... What can anybody say about the captain that hasn't been said already? There are two moments that define how important Puyol is to Barcelona:
1) After Barca conceded the first goal in the first league Clasico. To Puyol, there is simply no time to waste thinking about what went wrong and for disappointment. He doesn't seem to have the patience for that and will not allow his team to go down that path. Puyol just gets up and fights harder than ever. Barca, naturally, won that game... It was almost meant to be.
2) Immediately after Barca beat Atletico Madrid 1-2 the man just collapsed out of sheer exhaustion which was as much of a sign of how great the opponent was as well as just how much he is willing to put into the match to defend the colours.
As much as i try, I honestly cannot remember a single game last season when Puyol didn't play well. Moreover, there was a particular stretch during the season when Puyol was playing a match every 3 days because the rest of our defenders were injured. Considering his age and recent injuries, that was amazing. More than a player and more than just another captain, Puyol is so much more than physical attributes, he is the embodiment of a person beating odds through sheer will.
Ranking Puyol is easy for me. I will always give him an "A" because one can never watch one of Barca's matches and come away thinking that Carles didn't give his all.
Moment of the season: As I said before Puyol scored five goals this season but only two of them were headers and only one was against Real Madrid. Sure the other header was the only goal Barça scored in the Copa del Rey Semi-Final game in Valencia, and gave Barça a positive result, but the game tying goal at Santiago Bernabeu takes the nod here. After falling behind 1-0 early, Barcelona staged a comeback in the second half that started with Puyol's diving header.
Puyol Goal vs. Real Madrid [18.1.2012] [HD] [by Beotho] (via beotho)
|Started on the bench||13|
|Shots on goal||11
Record with Carles Puyol in the starting lineup: 30-7-3
2012/13 Outlook: Sadly, Puyol's age is slowly but surely going to become a factor. He will start the season 34 years old meaning he will need more rest than he needed a couple years ago, or even last season. Chronic knee problems are a worry for players 10 years younger than Puyi but for a player of his age it is an even bigger concern. The surgery Puyol underwent just before the end of the season should take care of his problems but you never know anything for a fact with knee surgeries. However, I have no doubt Puyol will be able to recover fully and play next season at a very high level. Puyol's contract runs out in 2013.
Next up: Javier Mascherano