After winning 21 trophies and the respect of fans, team mates and opponents during a glittering career, Barcelona’s inspirational captain Carles Puyol bade an emotional farewell on Thursday.
The shaggy-haired defender, a world and European champion with Spain and widely admired for his never-say-die attitude, announced in March he was leaving at the end of the season following a persistent battle with a knee injury.
A product of the Barcelona youth system, La Masia, Puyol made his debut under former coach Louis van Gaal and helped the club win Champions League titles in 2006, 2009 and 2011.
He was a key part of Pep Guardiola’s famed ‘six cups’ side of 2009 that won all the competitions they contested in that calendar year but has barely featured this season due to injury, making only five appearances in La Liga.
“I have tried everything (to get fit),” Puyol told a news conference as he was surrounded by family, friends, current and former team mates and club officials.
“We haven’t found a solution but I am not throwing in the towel,” added the 36-year-old who has been linked with a possible move to Major League Soccer (MLS) in the United States.
“I will keep trying but now without the pressure of playing.”
Puyol said the highlight of his Barca career was the moment the club’s former defender Eric Abidal lifted the Champions League trophy at London’s Wembley Stadium following victory over Manchester United in the 2011 final.
Abidal had only just returned to the team after a battle with liver cancer and Puyol stepped aside to allow the Frenchman to collect the trophy.
Looking to the future the defender said he had many decisions to make in the coming weeks and that he hoped to maintain links with Barca.
“The youth set-up appeals to me more than that of a first-team coach,” added Puyol.
Barca will need to dip into the transfer market in the close season to find a replacement for Puyol whose leadership on and off the pitch will be sorely missed.