When Carles Puyol got injured in January he was expected to recover quickly, but it soon became apparent that it was not an ordinary injury; it ended up sidelining him for the rest of the season. Still, Puyol found the strength to lead Barcelona's backline in the Clásico series, helping Barcelona win the league and the Champions League.
It was the only three games he started after January, and although he was excellent, he was far from fully recovered—he only played in the Clásicos out of absolute necessity. This summer, the 33-year-old Barcelona captain underwent a knee surgery in order to get back to full fitness and he is finally back, after months of recovery.
Puyol's return to full fitness is undoubtedly the best signing of the season for FC Barcelona, and his presence might very well be the difference between success and failure. Puyol's importance can't be stressed enough; Xavi Hernandez once described him as "the most important player of the team." Not only does Puyol remain one of the world's finest defenders, but he's the captain and leader of this team. He's the heart of FC Barcelona.
Puyol might not be as technically gifted as his teammates, but he's absolutely vital. Barcelona's defense is always at their best when Puyol is on the pitch leading the line, shouting orders and keeping everyone focused. Piqué himself admits he performs better with Puyol by his side. Despite his age, Puyol is still an absolutely key member of the squad.
While Barcelona's midfield and attack are more than stacked, the same can't be said about defense. In fact, the likes of Mascherano and Abidal have had to fill it at center-back on multiple occasions. The strength and depth of Barcelona's defense will depend a lot on Puyol's fitness this season. Barcelona need their captain if they want to emulate last season's success. Besides, his return is sure to bring a huge boost to the team's morale.
With Carles Puyol back, Barcelona are fully ready to try and defend their league and Champions League titles. The captain was the only missing piece in Pep Guardiola's all-conquering squad. Barcelona's chances to win major titles this season have just got even higher than before.
Puyol will turn 34 this season and Barcelona supporters have to accept the fact that he's not getting any younger and will have to be replaced eventually. But the legendary Barcelona captain still has one mission to accomplish before calling it a day: Puyol is one of only two men, the other one being Franz Beckenbauer, to captain three different Champions League winning squads. He must become the sole holder of this record before retiring at Barcelona, further cementing his status as an FC Barcelona and football legend!
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