Carles Puyol Saforcada (1978/04/13)
La Pobla de Segur (Lerida)
Puyol started playing football for his hometown club during his childhood and in 1995, he joined FC Barcelona’s youth system at La Masia, still not in a permanent position; two years later, he started playing for the club’s B-team, occupying the position of right fullback.
In 1998, Barcelona that had not too many hopes on him, probably because of his age, accepted an offer from Málaga CF to sell Puyol, who was behind other players of the squad in the pecking order. Nonetheless, he rejected the option to leave the club after seeing Xavi, one of his best friends in La Masia, first team debut. That decision changed the history of his life and both Barcelona and Spain football history.
The dutch coach Gaal promoted Carles to the first team the following year, and he made his La Liga debut on 2 October 1999 in a win against Real Valladolid. After that, he started play as a central defender, his best position and the one he showed his finest performance. In 2005, the player extended his contract for a further five seasons.
Puyol became captain of the team at the end of the 2003–04 season, being one of the most humble and responsible captains of the history of his club and an example to the others. He was an important part of the defensive line of the team winning two consecutive league titles in those seasons. In 2006, with Rijkaard in the bench he conquered against Arsenal one of the most desired titles for The Catalans: the UEFA Champions League. They defeated the british 2-1 in a rainy night at Paris with two goals of Eto´o and Belletti.
In the Euro 2008, Puyol, the rest of the footballers of the squad and the coach, Luis Aragones, came back to the Spain as the champions of the contest. This fact changed the mentality of a country for a long time in a pessimistic position.
The season 2008-2009, the first season of Pep Guardiola as F.C. Barcelona coach, will be remembered by El Clasico against Real Madrid on 2 May 2009, which finished with a categorical victory 6–2 and a Puyol goal. That unforgettable season the captain got with his team the Triple Crown: the spanish league La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the UEFA Champions League. During the next years the number of trophies grew up for Los Cules as never before.
During 2009/10 season, Carles raises his fourth league. The captain keeps great regularity and he is one of the most used players in Pep Guardiola defensive line. In fact, he played in all the back line positions: centre-back, right fullback and even left fullback.
In summer 2010 in South Africa, he won with Spain, the only official title he lacked as a football player: the World Cup. Puyol was one of the main elements of Del Bosque plan. He played in all seven games and scored the only goal in the semifinal against Germany, flying over the whole opponents with a header very similar than the one in the 2-6 match against Real.
Puyol has less luck in the 2010/11 season, and he only plays 27 games, because of differente injuries. However, he won that year his fifth spanish soccer league and his third UEFA Champions League. In Wembley, in the final of the top european competition, he gives the captain’s armband to Eric Abidal in a great gesture, so the french can lift the European Cup.
Already in the year 2011/12, Carles Puyol missed the Spanish Supercup and the European Supercup, but contributed his leadership to win the Club World Cup and the Copa del Rey. That same year, on the back of the quarterfinals of the Champions between Barcelona and Milan, Barca defense outperforms Migueli as the second player with the most matches with Barcelona shirt. Thus, only Xavi stands above him in this aspect.
In the 2012/13 season, Barca captain had a series of injuries that prevented him to have continuity in the team. Despite playing a few games, and being operated midseason knee, the captain could lift the championship trophy League 2012/13.
In addition, Carles Puyol participated with the national team in the World Cups of 2002, 2006 and 2010 and the European Championships in 2004 and 2008.
Above all, Carles Puyol was a reference not just for his teammates, but also for any football player, due to his character, for his leadership and because it perfectly knows what it means to dress and feel colors of his club. His last game was on March 3, 2014 at the Camp Nou against Almeria.