FC Barcelona center back and captain Carles Puyol has announced today that will be retiring from the game at the end of the current campaign. Puyol has spent his entire career in Barcelona and has also made 100 career appearances for the Spanish National team. He has been the captain of Barcelona since 2004 and in that time they have won six La Liga titles and three Champions League trophies. He has also been apart of the Spanish national team that won the 2008 European championship and the 2010 World Cup.
Spanish football has never been known for its defense and the individual defenders like in England or Italy. Puyol has been the one exception to that over the past decade; his trademark curly hair and tireless work ethic have been a constant for both Barcelona and the Spanish national team over that time. While the overall quality of both his team’s defenses can be called into question Puyol’s individual quality cannot.
Puyol has been one of the most consistent high-level defenders in the world for a long time. In his prime years since making his first La Liga appearance in 1999 to 2012 he only had two seasons where he made less than 35 appearances for Barcelona. Not only does that represent how important he is to the club but it also highlights how durable he has been over his career in a sport known for frequent injuries. That same consistency has shown up in his national team play as well making, until this point, exactly 100 career appearances for Spain and has been one of the focal points for them as they have enjoyed their most successful run in the countries footballing history. Only an injury right before the tournament kept Puyol from being a part of the 2012 Spanish side that won their second consecutive European Championship.
Barcelona will sorely miss Puyol as their one weakness in their recent period of success has been their back line. Gerard Pique has been the second coming of Puyol as he has been a constant for both the Spanish team and Barcelona since his return to Barcelona from Manchester United in 2008. Though Pique has taken some of the workload off of Puyol’s shoulders in the past few years it has still not been enough to bolster Barcelona’s defense because every other defender on their roster is not a true defender. The wing back position that Barcelona has been using with players like Jordi Alba and Dani Alves helps to add players to the attack but leaves the back line vulnerable to the counter attack.
While Pique has been Barcelona’s best defender over the last few years he would not be considered a true defender by the classic definition because he also adds a lot to attack. Puyol could be considered that last true defender in the Spanish style of football, and it is likely there will not be another player like him for quite some time. The attacking style of football that Barcelona and the Spanish team have cultivated over the last decade has shown to be nothing but successful if a team has the right personnel. Because of this the teams using this style are seeking a different style of defender who can add to an attack but also get back to defend the counter attack. That is why the hard-nosed stay back and defend style of play that Puyol played with is a dying breed in today’s football world.
Carles Puyol announcing he will leave Barcelona is a major disappointment for the club. He will be missed for both his high-level of play and his overall impact on the club that he grew up with and never left.
Commentary By Max Petkevicius