The Captain, The Legend, The Heart & Soul of FC Barcelona
No, you are not hallucinating. I am championing Carles Puyol as the best defender in the world. Once again I urge you to read what I have written before questioning my assessment. I’ve said “Carles Puyol is the best DEFENDER, not center back nor full back but DEFENDER, in the world. There are a host of quality defenders in world football but not one comes close to Carles Puyol in terms of versatility.
I am a Culé, an ardent supporter of FC Barcelona, and yes, I am a Featured Columnist for FC Barcelona. Therefore, please spare me the accusations of bias or favoritism. I assume one would rather accept if this article was written by a Martian rather than yours truly. But guess what? I wrote this incredible glorification of King Carles Puyol. Get over it.
To be frank, if this article was about the best center back in the world I don’t think Carles Puyol would be the main contender. Top five, perhaps, but I believe Gerard Pique eclipsed him a while ago. Not to mention, there are a few illustrious names that have a legitimate claim on being the world’s finest center back, Thiago Silva or Nemanja Vidic.
Nevertheless, Carles Puyol is in a class all by himself. He’s arguably the most complete defender (DEFENDER, for those of you who still read center back) of his generation. Though he started out as a right back, he made a name for himself as world-class center back. In any case, Carles Puyol is more than capable to play any position in defense, hence my argument that Captain Catalunya is the best defender in the world.
Let’s break down why Carles Puyol is the best defender in the world
Left? Right? Center? No politics here, Puyi can do it all!
As I mentioned earlier, Carles Puyol started his Barca career as a right back, and he even made the UEFA XI as such. Though it is an extremely rare occurrence that Dani Alves is missing through either suspension or injury, Puyol usually fills in for the Brazilian in his absence.
Furthermore, Puyol has even shown his undoubted class as a left back. One doesn’t need to look any further than the 2009 Champions League final in Rome. Puyol rendered the then-reigning World Player of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo, absolutely useless – much to the frustration of the Portuguese underwear model.
Age doesn’t discriminate; it even caught up with Puyol.
He is definitely not the youngest of players thus not the fastest, but he still is rarely beaten. With age comes wisdom, or in his case, experience that Puyol has in abundance. Martin Caceres has youth, pace and strength but is not even remotely close to being the center back Puyol is.
He never stops running and pressing, in short, he never stops hustling. In Puyol’s playbook, there’s no such thing as a lost cause.
Dani Alves must have the largest lungs in any sport. He can run up and down the right flank for 90 minutes straight, but Puyol is no slouch himself. He’ll chase any ball until the official blows the whistle.
Let’s put it this way, if Cristiano Ronaldo were to run at Victor Valdez full speed and Puyol was the only player between him and the goal, I wouldn’t bet against Puyi.
During his career, Puyol has faced some of the world’s finest and most powerful forwards like Chelsea’s Didier Drogba but he is rarely, if ever, outmuscled outright.
He screams, he yells and according to his fellow center half Gerard Pique, he cannot keep quiet.
Whatever his motives are, it keeps his fellow defenders concentrated and focused, even when the Blaugrana already enjoy a healthy lead.
Few players in the world are as devoted to their club as Puyol. When the chips are down, he’s the guy you want in your team.
His never-say-die attitude and willingness to fight for every ball are second to none. He might have lost a yard or two, but he remains as committed as ever.
Pique might be the technically superior player but what Puyol lacks in technical finesse, he more than makes up for with an unbreakable fighting spirit.
If Xavi is considered the brain of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona squad, Puyol is the heart and soul of the Blaugrana.
On May 2nd, 2009, it was partially due to Puyol’s mistake that led to Real Madrid’s 1-0 lead. The Barca captain however, more than made up for his mistake when he scored the 1-2 with a thumping header in the now infamous 2-6 thrashing of Real Madrid, in the Santiago Bernabeu no less.
Although he is entering the twilight of his career, Puyol remains a world-class defender. While he is not above suffering the occasional form dip - he was average at best during the 2006/2007 and 2007/2008 campaigns - he has maintained his very high standard ever since Pep Guardiola took over Rijkaard’s job.
His two “off seasons” so to speak coincided with the Blaugrana not winning a single trophy in those two years. A tight defense remains the cornerstone of any successful team after all.