Tales of Carles Puyol's Decline at Barcelona Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Jason Pettigrove@@jaypetti1971Contributor IMay 13, 2013

Captain Fantastic
Captain FantasticDavid Ramos/Getty Images

If you believe everything you read, see or hear in the various forms of the media then there is, apparently, an immediate need to dispense with the heartbeat of this current Barcelona side.

Carles Puyol is too old now, over the hill, past his best.

A fiercely proud Catalan and loyal captain who has been has been a centre-half par excellence, Puyol has been at the coal face in no less than 581 appearances for La Blaugrana.

Suggestions that the old war horse is on the way to an early footballing retirement are premature and frankly the player deserves a little more respect.

His passion, desire and commitment to the cause are still blindingly obvious to even the most casual observer and for many cules, Carles Puyol is Barcelona.

His paymasters in Catalonia would appear to agree, with the award of a contract until 2016 suggesting that Puyol's time at Camp Nou isn't up just yet.

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A born leader straight out of the old school, what he lacks in technical ability, he more than makes up for with his exceptional reading of the modern game, and we only have to look at how the team have struggled this season to be reminded of what Barcelona's very own bionic man brings to the party.

Gerard Pique in particular has looked out of sorts for much of the time that his usual defensive partner has not been at his side. 

B/R's Tre' Atkinson identified as much when he wrote:

When Pique is lined up beside Carles Puyol, Barcelona boasts one of the best defenses in the world. But when Pique is missing his captain, the Barcelona back line becomes very suspect, as evidenced in their Super Cup loss to Real Madrid at the beginning of the season.

Whenever Carles Puyol has played this season, he has performed his role with the usual aplomb.

He has won more than half of all of the tackles he has made and 94 percent of his passes have reached their intended target (via Squawka.com).

Only "pass master" Xavi Hernandez fares better in the passing stakes, a quite astonishing statistic.

In fact, aside from David Villa and the "Holy Trinity" of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi, it is Puyol who completes the top five. Hardly the domain of a player in decline.

In the Champions League he has also been a consistent performer, the heat map below showing just how hard he worked against Benfica.

A 97 percent pass completion rate in that game together with most tackles and headers won evidence his value to the side.

Perhaps the only question mark is whether the extent of his injuries are beginning to take their toll on the player.

Injuries that would've rendered lesser mortals defunct.

Seven knee problems—totalling over a year out and and including his current injury—his elbow dislocation hot on the heels of a broken cheekbone injury, the second of his career. Add in seven ankle injuries, two thigh injuries, two upper body injuries and one concussion...

Yet each time he picks up a knock, Puyol seems determined to confound the experts and come back stronger and fitter than before.

His powers of recovery are legendary and only recently the player himself told Barca TV:

Staying in shape is very important and I’m very aware that I have to take care of myself on and off the pitch. That’s what I try to do.

Talk of replacing Puyol anytime soon will be rebuffed by the player himself, who wants to play until he is 40 years old.

He might be coming to the twilight of his phenomenal career yet he can still fully justify his existence at the heart of the Barcelona defence. 

With six full months of rest—assuming he is relieved from Confederations Cup duty for Spain during the summer—Carles Puyol will be back for the start of the new La Liga season and ready for battle once more.

You simply cannot keep a good man down. 


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