Carles Puyol's 5 Most Memorable Moments at Barcelona
In January, a signature was squiggled at the bottom of a crisp new contract. The name read Carles Puyol.
He turns 35 in April and is in his 14th season in the Barcelona first team, but with the new deal signed and the intention that he stays at the club until 2016, it seems there is plenty of life left in La Blaugrana's captain.
If ever proof was needed of how popular Puyol is at Camp Nou, look no further than when he began his warm up before coming on against AC Milan in the recent Champions League encounter.
If the stadium had a roof, it would have lifted.
Sadly, an injury looks set to keep him out for the majority of the rest of the campaign.
While he focuses on his recovery, let's take a look at some of his memorable moments for Barca.
5. Debut and First Goal (1999 and 2001)
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Whatever comes after, the early stages of their career will always remain significant to footballers.
Carles Puyol's debut will have been even more poignant to him than many debuts are to other professionals.
Born in Catalonia—outside of Barcelona—he would have dreamed of walking out at Camp Nou as a player in front of nearly 100,000 feverish fans.
Dreams became reality in 1999. On October 2, having previously been a goalkeeper and a striker, Puyol made his Barca debut at right-back against Real Valladolid.
Louis van Gaal was the manager dishing out the debut, introducing him in the second half in place of Simao.
Almost two years later, it was against the same team that Puyol scored his first goal for Barcelona.
He played a one-two with Javier Saviola before firing Barca into a 2-0 lead—they went on to win 4-0 (November 11, 2001).
4. Marking Luis Figo out of the Game (2000)
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One of the standout transfers of the last 15 years was Luis Figo opting to leave the Barcelona coast for the inland Spanish capital and the white of Real Madrid.
His return to Camp Nou on October 21, 2000, was hotly anticipated in Catalonia.
The man handed with the task of man-marking him was Carles Puyol.
Following 37 appearances during the previous season, Puyol was enjoying his second season in the limelight of Barca's first team.
That night, under the backdrop of fierce Barca fans and lion-heart defending from Puyol, Figo was unable to make the impact he'd have dreamed about.
He was kept quiet and Barcelona recorded a 2-0 win, while the young Puyol made a statement that he was to be taken seriously.
3. First Trophy (2005)
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It may have taken Carles Puyol five seasons to win a single trophy after establishing himself in the Barcelona side, but it took just one season of his leadership to win it.
Named captain of Frank Rijkaard's team for the 2004-05 season, Puyol led his colleagues to the title with his never-say-die defensive attitude.
A 1-1 draw with Levante sealed the La Liga championship on May 14, 2005—their first since 1999.
Puyol was present for 36 of the 38 league games as La Blaugrana finished four points ahead of Real Madrid with a total of 84.
2. Barcelona 2-1 Arsenal (2006)
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He has played his part in two more Champions League successes since, but the first one in Paris will stand out for Carles Puyol.
The first reason being that this was his first success in Europe and came in his second season captaining the Catalan club.
The second being the nature of the win.
Arsenal had led 1-0, taking the lead from a free kick which was awarded for a debatable foul by Puyol.
Nevertheless, Barcelona struck twice in the last 15 minutes—through Samuel Eto'o and Juliano Belletti—to secure the continent's most sough-after prize.
1. Record Trophy Haul (2009)
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Few knew what to expect when Josep Guardiola was appointed as Barcelona manager for the beginning of the 2008-09 season.
Surely Carles Puyol didn't even anticipate what was to come.
Throughout the calendar year of 2009, Barca succeeded in winning six different competitions—La Liga, Copa del Rey, Champions League, Supercopa, UEFA Super Cup and the World Club Cup.
Puyol, as captain, was the trophy bearer for them all.
It may well be the La Liga game at the Bernabeu which Puyol best remembers.
Real Madrid had won 17 of their last 18 matches and had closed Barca's lead to four points with five games to go.
La Blaugrana rolled up for El Clasico and shut the resurgence down, though—Puyol among the scorers in a 6-2 win in the Spanish capital.