There are times that even the men who never admit defeat have to admit defeat. On Tuesday afternoon Carles Puyol did something he had never done before: He gave up. But if that was out of character, this was also very Puyol: dignified, honest and to the point, no ceremony, but proud. He spoke for less than two minutes.
Fifteen years and over 50,000 minutes of football later, FC Barcelona’s captain announced that he will leave the club at the end of the season and take a rest. At last, he lays down his arms.
One newspaper calculated that Puyol has suffered 38 injuries in his career. He will be 36 next month. Overcoming the removal of a Baker’s cyst this summer has proved harder than he could have imagined, harder too than the surgeons anticipated.
Four seasons without a break, operation after operation, a career spent playing flat-out, always pushing, have finally taken their toll. It is not for want of trying but Puyol says he can no longer perform at the level he demands of himself. He has always set his own limits.
It would have been easy to keep on and his contract runs to 2016 but that is not his way: Puyol is a competitor. Now he believes he can no longer compete beyond the summer but until then, he will. He left the press room, with a promise to battle on until the bell tolls.
"Those who know me know that I will not let down my guard and they know that I will continue fighting to the end to try to improve and help the team win titles." They know.
Mention Puyol and some images are unavoidable. The towering header that took Spain to the 2010 World Cup final: neck tense, hair flying back then forward, like a whip, sending the ball into the net. A similar goal against Real Madrid in the 6-2 victory at the Bernabéu, Puyol celebrating by removing the captain’s armband, in Catalan red and yellow, and kissing it. And the moment that seemed to define him and how he played: In 2002 against Lokomotiv Moscow, he dived to save a shot on the goal line with his chest. With his heart, fans said.
"No one will ever symbolise as much," Andres Iniesta said.
My guardian angel.
The day has come. You’re leaving. Although it is life, it is impossible to imagine a club without you. If I look back and remember Paris or Rome, the first image that comes to mind is you lifting the European Cup. At Wembley you gave the honor to Abi, a memory which makes you even greater. My generation and those that come after do not know what a club is without Puyi in defense, with the armband and ‘5’ on the back. I guess nothing will be the same.
I met you almost 6 years ago. You were the captain of the team and I was young and coming to take on the world. From the first day we had a great relationship both on and off the field. By your side I felt protected. I knew that if one day I failed, you would be there to save me. You were my guardian angel.
I know that I will miss our talks in the locker room, your tips and especially your ‘fights’ on the pitch. You are unique and irreplaceable. It makes me laugh when they talk about signing ‘the new Puyol’. They can keep looking, because they will never find him.
Thanks for everything, Puyi.
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1. Michelle and Barack Obama
2. Melinda and Bill Gates
3. Jay-Z and Beyonce
4. Xi Jinping and Peng Liyuan
5. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt
6. Portia de Rossi and Ellen DeGeneres
7. Marissa Mayer and Zachary Bogue
8. Hillary and Bill Clinton
9. Gerard Pique and Shakira (!!!)
10. Patrizio Bertelli and Miuccia Prada
11. Cher Wang and Wenchi Chen
12. Mike Nichols and Diane Sawyer
13. Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen
14. Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg
15. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
the future barca president lol