Tito Vilanova’s men were up 2-0 thanks to Alexis Sanchez who slotted in a Lionel Messi cross inside the box in the fifth minute. Cesc Fabregas doubled the lead in the 55th minute via a great assist from Messi who set up Cesc on the left side of the box to put it past Benfica goalkeeper Artur.
While solid performances from players like Alexis Sanchez and Victor Valdes looked like were going to be the talking points of the night, it was Carles Puyol who stole the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
It was the 75h minute and Barça earned a corner kick. Xavi took the kick, attempting to find his usual target of Puyol who comes charging into the box to try and head it in. Xavi’s kick sailed over everyone’s head and was sent away by a Benfica player. Puyol attempted to head the ball in but missed. As he was coming down, he tripped on Ezequiel Garay’s legs, flipped over and landed horrifically on his left arm, twisting the arm in a frightening manner.
If you saw the injury live as the game aired, you immediately knew Puyol had broken something. Puyol was stretchered off as the Benfica crowd gave Carles a rousing applause off the pitch. Classy move by the Benfica fans.
After the match, it was confirmed that Carles Puyol suffered a dislocated elbow and is out for a very long time. Barcelona sports director Andoni Zubizarreta told the media that Puyol had dislocated his shoulder. The video is tough to watch.
What makes this latest injury to Carles so bad is that he was just coming back from his fractured cheekbone injury which he suffered a few weeks ago against Getafe in Liga action. It was hopeful that Puyol was going to be a part of the starting XI for this weekend’s Clásico against Real Madrid.
Well that’s all done.
Now the question has to be asked—as much as many Culés don’t want to hear it—is should Carles Puyol retire? Or at least consider it.
Let’s take a look at this from both sides.
On a personal level, of course Carles Puyol should not retire. He has plenty of game left in his body and all Culés probably can’t believe we are having this discussion. Who doesn’t love Carles Puyol?
But on a business level, maybe Carles should begin to consider it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m really not trying to overreact, but Carles continues to get injured and it’s reached a point where Tito Vilanova cannot rely on Puyol being healthy. I’m sorry, I love Carles, but I have to call it as it is. He’s won essentially every title as a member for FC Barcelona and as part of the Spanish national team. What more does he have to prove? Perhaps he should consider calling it a career soon.
That being said, do I personally think Carles should retire? No. But I do believe Carles Puyol’s days as a regular starting player for FC Barcelona are over.
Carles’ endurance is not going to get better. He’s 34 and with the tough, physical style he’s always played, he was bound to begin to break down. We began seeing this a few years ago and this past year it has reached a boiling point.
Let’s bring in this factor: Barcelona need to build their defense for the future. Right now, there are two starters who will be in that back line for a long time in Jordi Alba and Gerard Piqué. Martin Montoya will one-day replace Dani Alves as the right-back as I believe Alves will be sold within two years. Which leaves the other CB spot open. The question has always been, “Who’s going to be Carles’ replacement one day?”
There was hope Barcelona was going to find its CB of the future this summer when it seemed like Thiago Silva was heading to the Camp Nou. But AC Milan was not interested in selling him to Barça and instead chose to sell him to Paris Saint-Germain. Barcelona’s failure was not that it did not get Silva, it was that they spent all their time and energy on pursuing Silva and not looking at other options just in case Milan says no. Mats Hummels is a fantastic CB and would have been a great addition.
So far, Alex Song has been a nice pick-up and yes, Javier Mascherano does a fine job at CB. But neither of them are true CBs.
I’ve kept saying for a year now that Barcelona needs to find the answer to that question. Now more than ever, Tito Vilanova and Sandro Rosell need to try and find the answer to that question.
If it feels like every week I’m trying to promote Marc Bartra into the starting XI, that’s because I am.
Tito Vilanova needs to wake up and finally give this kid a shot. I’m tired of this team focusing on offense when the defense has been the weakness for years now. Tito is, unfortunately, following the footsteps of Pep Guardiola in not focusing on the defense and not giving the young Masia defenders a shot.
Give Marc Bartra the shot he’s already earned to get, Tito. Don’t be like Pep and not give the young CBs a shot. It’s time to change things.
Carles Puyol has been a great leader and still is. But his fragile health and his lack of speed are hindering the Barcelona back line and I don’t believe he can be a regular starting player for Barcelona.
I’m not saying he can’t start any game; I’m saying he’s not a regular starting XI player. He’s better off coming off the bench and relieving a player like Bartra, Mascherano or Piqué. And no, there’s nothing wrong with coming off the bench. It happens to many great footballers. That’s the way the game works. You have to make way for the new era, mentor them, and allow them to get experience to grow as a player. Carles can do that.
I apologize if I sound like I’m giving an obituary in this article, but it is tough when you need to be straight forward about one of the most beloved players of your team.
Football is a business.
And in the business of FC Barcelona, a change is needed at defense, a change is needed in the mentality of allowing young CBs to gain experience, and a change is needed in Carles Puyol’s role with the team. He should not retire, but his days as a regular starting XI player are over. Not because of this recent injury, but because of the accumulation of injuries over the past few seasons as well as his loss of speed, given that that is natural.
We'll be waiting for you to get back to good health, Carles, but it's time for FC Barcelona to establish life without you as a starting player.
We all love Carles Puyol and he’s been a fantastic captain for many years.
But this is business, not personal.
Xoel, The Voice of FC Barcelona on Bleacher Report.
Check out Karl Matchett's 8 Things We Learned In Barcelona's 2-0 Win Over Benfica
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