Carles Puyol has announced he will be leaving Barcelona at the end of the season, calling time on a career that has spanned three decades and yielded 21 trophies at the Camp Nou, as reported by the club's official Twitter stream:
The 35-year-old centre-back has played a bit-part role this campaign after suffering various injuries. This led to a mutual agreement between the player and his club, revealed by AS.com and via Bleacher Report UK guest columnist Guillem Balague:
RT @English_AS Puyol: I am tired after so many injury problems and operations. Club and I have decided to rescind my contract— Guillem Balague (@GuillemBalague) March 4, 2014
Puyol's announcement also confirms he will not attend the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, meaning he won't be part of Vicente del Bosque's squad which aims to retain their trophy in the South American heat.
The player has enjoyed era-defining success with both club and country, endearing himself to the world as a tough-tackling, aerially dominant centre-back. Although never blessed with great pace, the frizzy-haired legend is exceptional at reading and reacting to play.
Since receiving a promotion to the FCB first team under Louis van Gaal in 1999, Puyol has remained a versatile and extremely passionate member of an ever-changing squad—as noted by Pep Guardiola's decision to play him in three different positions during the treble-winning season of 2008-09.
His leadership skills have helped players such as Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta flourish in Catalonia, providing such individuals with a reliable constant during their maturing years.
Remarkably, Puyol has won everything aside from the Europa League, as noted below:
|Trophy||Number of Times Won|
|Copa Del Rey||2|
|Spanish Super Cup||6|
|UEFA Super Cup||2|
|FIFA Club World Cup||2|
|FIFA World Cup||1|
Pete Jenson of the Daily Mirror provided historical context surrounding Puyol's decorated career:
With three European Cup medals and a total of 21 trophies, the player whose all-action style earned him the nickname Tarzan, will go down as one of Barcelona’s all-time greats.
And it will not just be for his football that he is remembered. He allowed Eric Abidal to lift the European Cup in his place at the 2011 Wembley final after the defender had come back from cancer surgery to play in the win over Manchester United.
Barca now face a difficult task of replacing the outgoing captain. Gerardo Martino has been linked with a swoop for Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels recently, reported by Mundo Deportivo via Adam Shergold of the Daily Mail.
Assistant manager Jorge Pautasso acknowledged the club's weakness when defending set-pieces, as highlighted with Almeria's goal during the recent 4-1 win, per Dermot Corrigan of ESPN FC:
We are a short team and that makes aerial plays difficult for us. In some situations we use a zonal-marking system, in others we mark man-to-man. Our opponents take advantage when they get set-pieces. We will try to improve in this. We try to avoid conceding risky free kicks and corners.
The club is yet to find someone who can win headers like Puyol in his prime and are likely to spend considerable money doing so. His presence has been sorely missed at times this season and is sure to be noticeable across the coming years.