We all knew this day was coming, but none of us were truly ready for it.
On Tuesday, March 4th, 2014, Carles Puyol announced he will be leaving Futbol Club Barcelona at the end of the season.
The press conference was quick and to the point, which has always been Puyol's way of talking.
"I want to announce that at the end of the season I will no longer be a Barcelona player," said Carles. "The Club knows about this and we are agreed on the matter and how it should be dealt with. We shall rescind my contract and leave it without effect for the two years that were left on it."
Puyol said the reason he is leaving is because his health doesn't allow him to be at a level he feels is needed at Barcelona. "After two very serious operations, I'm finding it very hard to get back to the level I need to be at to stay here. Much more than I thought and much more than the surgeons told me. That's why I have made this decision."
Puyol made three quick statements at the end of the press conference.
1.-I'm not going today. There are three months of the season left and anyone that knows me will know that I won't give up and I'll keep fighting to the end to try to improve and help the team to achieve its objectives this season.
2.- I don't know what I'll do after June 30, but what I am sure of is that when the season ends I'm going to need to get some rest. I haven't stopped for four years because of injuries. After that, we'll see what happens.
3.- And finally I'd like to give a press conference at the end of the season and say farewell to all the people that have accompanied me though these 19 years. Whoever wants to, whoever can, presidents, directors, coaches, team-mates, people from the club, reporters, friends, relatives, that day I'll answer whatever questions they want. Thank you very much and I'll see you soon!"
And just like that, the Capità ended the press conference to a standing ovation from the people in the press room.
It is a sad day for all Culés. While it is a sad day in the history of FC Barcelona, it is also a day to celebrate Carles Puyol's career, and thank him for everything that he has done for the club.
Carles has been there for the good times, and the bad times. As much as we can all appreciate the times a footballer lifts up a trophy, a footballer's character is best shown when he or she faces defeat, and accepts it with class and grace.
Carles Puyol is the epitome of toughness, class, grace, passion, and heart. He is the heart of FC Barcelona, and his presence on the pitch and in the locker room will be missed.
For those who would like to see Puyol continue playing at FCB, let's be honest: his body doesn't allow him to play at a high level anymore, as he said in the press conference. I would love to see Puyi play many more games for Barcelona, but age and injuries caught up to Carles a few seasons ago.
Personally, it's been tough for me and many Culés to see Carles not playing or being taken out of games due to injury. I don't want to see one of my heroes dragging his feet, trying to play, and constantly getting beat by the opponent. It would be a damn shame. I'm sorry, but Carles doesn't deserve that and he knows it, hence why he is leaving FC Barcelona.
There are many that say the number 5 should be retired to honor Carles Puyol. I am undecided on this issue. While I think it would be the best tribute the club could give Carles, I also think Puyol himself would probably decline to have this happen. Carles always puts the club first, and I believe he would not like the number 5 to go away forever, rather, go to another player that will continue playing with the same heart and dedication as he did when he wore the number 5-perhaps Marc Bartra.
One of my favorite Carles Puyol stories is from Gerard Piqué:
"I remember the day he (Puyol) came back from injury. In the middle of the game I said: ‘Puyi, I've missed you so much.' He told me to shut the hell up and concentrate."
That's our Capità! He is all business first. He knows the responsibility wearing the Senyera captain's armband brings, and for so many years, he has set the example of what being a leader on the pitch is all about.
"I can't imagine a Barcelona team without him." - Gerard Piqué
We won't have to imagine it; we'll have to live it out soon.
What I will remember about Carles Puyol is not only the wins, but also the losses. The loss to Real Madrid in the 2001-02 UEFA Champions League semifinals-before he took the captaincy, the following season when Barça finished sixth in La Liga and so on. Carles always stayed strong despite tough losses and disappointment. His competitive-but-friendly battles with Real Madrid's legendary captain Raul will also be a fond memory for me and may football fans around the world.
Carles Puyol made his first squad debut in 1999 and for 15 years, Puyol has been giving every last bit of strength in his body for the club. He's won multiple Ligas, Champions League titles, Copa del Reys, he's a World Cup champion, and so on. Now, it's time for him to say goodbye. I don't know about you, but the final game of the Liga season will be emotional for me, as we have to say goodbye to two Catalan legends in Carles Puyol as well as Victor Valdes.
In the past few years, we have had to say goodbye to some beloved people: Pep Guardiola, Eric Abidal, Tito Vilanova, and soon Carles Puyol and Victor Valdes.
For me, I have never truly seen it as saying "goodbye" forever to our beloved Blaugranas. I have always seen it as a "Goodbye for now. Come back home soon." I truly believe one day Pep and Abi will come back home. Tito is doing well; his treatment is going well, is in good spirits, and already visits the Camp Nou regularly, according to a report from journalist Bernat Soler whom spoke recently with Tito. For me, just as when Pep, Abi, and Tito left, I'll also be saying "Come back home soon" to Puyi and VV.
Catalunya is your homeland, Carles Puyol. The Camp Nou is your home. We understand that you need to leave. If you decide to play with another club, just promise us that you will eventually find your way home.
It is tough to say goodbye to an icon. Thankfully, we still have a few more months with Carles as a Barça player. But we will never truly say goodbye to Carles Puyol as a Culé. He will always be in our memories, in our hearts, and his competitive spirit at the Camp Nou and FC Barcelona will live forever.
Gracies Capi! Gracias Carles!
You will always have a place in hearts of all Culés.
You will always be a Culé.
You will always be Més Que Un Footballer.
Thank you, Carles Puyol: Catalan, Capità, Culé, Legend.
Xoel, The Voice of FC Barcelona