Ranking the Best Seasons of Carles Puyol's Barcelona Career
Carles Puyol is one of biggest legends in Barcelona history, as well as one of the best centre-backs of his generation.
At 35 years old, the Blaugrana captain is in the autumn of his career and there is no telling just what the future will hold for him.
According to a recent report from Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish, H/T InsideSpanishFootball), Puyol's future is in doubt. Though the Catalan defender wants to play longer, he could likely retire at season's end or make a move to the MLS.
Marca.com has also reported that the 35-year-old is weighing up his options, meaning we really could be witnessing the final days of the great Barcelona captain Carles Puyol.
With that being said, this article will serve as a time of remembrance. We will rank Puyol's best seasons at the Catalan club while also looking back at his career with fondness.
Of course, the current season will not be included in this list.
*All player statistics are courtesy of ESPN.com
Before we begin ranking Puyol's seasons at Barcelona, we must mention a few of his early years. Here we have grouped together the defender's second, third and fourth years at the Catalan club in which he was still learning his place.
After joining the first team in 1999, Puyol constantly grew into an important player for the club.
Though Barcelona were not overly successful in the early 2000s, it was a special time for Puyol. He began his career playing as a right-back before moving to the centre of the back line.
In these years the Catalan came into his own. Every year he grew and developed while the world took note of what he can really do. Things were quiet in Catalonia, but little did anyone know that they were witnessing the birth of a legend.
11. Puyol's 2012-2013 Season
Coming in at the bottom of our Carles Puyol rankings is last season's difficult campaign. Though Barcelona went on to lift the La Liga title under Tito Vilanova, it was a year to forget for the captain.
Puyol faced lengthy spells on the sidelines due to ongoing injuries problems. He never had the chance to really get into a consistent rhythm and it cost Barcelona several times during the year.
The worst part of the year for Puyol was when he suffered a horrific elbow injury during the club's Champions League victory over Benfica.
When the news broke that Puyol would be out for some time, fans began wondering if his career was over. Last year was not a bad time for the club as a whole, but it was clear that Puyol's time in the spotlight was over.
10. Puyol's 2011-2012
Backing up one season, we can see the beginning of Puyol's decline. The 2011/2012 campaign was the last year of Pep Guardiola's reign and was a difficult time for Barcelona.
Puyol began to see less playing time than he was used to due to injuries and fatigue. Javier Mascherano slowly began to see his name listed in the starting lineup more often and the captain had to adjust.
For the most part, this was not a bad season for Puyol by any means. However, the fact that the club was only able to win the Copa del Rey while watching Puyol start to struggle was a sign of change.
Because of the 2011/2012 season, fans began to call for Barcelona to sign a new centre-back. As we all know, that hasn't happened yet, but the need was very evident.
On and off the field, Puyol continued to lead. He may not have been as fast or reliable as previous seasons, but his effect on his teammates was invaluable.
9. Puyol's 2006-2007 Season
This season was an odd one for Carles Puyol. One could say it was a year in between success, but truly it was a time in which the club was going through changes.
After winning both La Liga and the Champions League the year before, Barcelona only managed to lift the Copa del Rey trophy. Puyol was playing a major role within the squad and carried the back line at various times.
The Catalans were not struggling, but they were facing stiff competition. Many look to these years as the foundation for Barcelona's golden era, but the one constant factor was Puyol sporting the captain's armband.
During the 2006/2007 season, fans had the privilege of seeing Puyol take the reigns on and off the pitch. The centre-back was no longer just a captain, he was turning into a coach and vocal leader. His legacy had already started, but in a way it was just beginning.
8. Puyol's 1999-2000 Season
The turn of the century saw the arrival of Puyol. In 1999, then manager Louis van Gaal handed Puyol his promotion to the first team and immediately began including him in the club's plans.
It is hard to say that this was a successful year for Puyol who was just learning what it meant to be a professional footballer. But in the grand scheme of things, this is where it all began.
The defensive-minded player had impressed at the youth levels in a big way. He had featured as a goalkeeper, striker and defensive midfielder during his developmental years, but at Barcelona Puyol transitioned into a pure defender.
The Catalan club knew they had something special in Puyol. The young defender was mature well beyond his years and was already showing signs of leadership. His promotion to the first team was completely warranted and he would soon stamp his name on the club.
7. Puyol's 2003-2004 Season
After making his debut in 1999, Puyol quickly sealed his spot in the Blaugrana squad in the years to come. By 2003, the defender was a permanent face in the Barcelona lineup and the world was more than aware of how good he really was.
The Catalan helped the club as they continued to grow and remain a force in Spanish football, while the top men at Barcelona took notice.
The 2003/2004 season wasn't much of a success for the club, but you could say it was Puyol's coming out. At the end of the season, Luis Enrique retired from the game and Carles Puyol was officially named the club's captain.
6. Puyol's 2004-2005 Season
Looking through Barcelona's illustrious career, the 2004/2005 season doesn't look that special. La Blaugrana lifted the La Liga trophy, but it wasn't a standout year by any means.
That is, of course, unless your name is Carles Puyol.
In his first season as captain, Puyol also won his first-ever major title. The new captain led a formidable Blaugrana defence while also playing a major role for the club off the field.
At the end of the season, Puyol was lifting his first La Liga title, but many more would follow. It was easy to see that he was an irreplaceable member of the squad and, without him, it is safe to say that the club could have not found success so easily.
Puyol has always been a manager's dream. He keeps players in line and is in control of what happens within the squad. He was the perfect captain from day one and proved it.
5. Puyol's 2007-2008 Season
Barcelona has been a club of consistent fluctuation ever since Puyol joined the first team. After winning the Champions League in 2006, the club went through another time of change. But captain Puyi remained the constant.
During the 2007/2008 season, it was clear that the Catalan club was on the rise. Several key players played a major role in the club and the world could easily tell that something special was going on.
Truthfully, 2008 would lay the foundation to what would eventually become one of the most successful club seasons in football history. Of course, Puyol was there to lead the charge.
As the club continued to grow and prepare for the arrival of Pep Guardiola, captain Puyol took on an even more important role. He was an idol for kids, a mentor for young stars and a hero for Spanish football.
At the end of the season, Puyol went on to help Spain win Euro 2008. This would be the nation's statement that they were ready to take international football by storm; all the while the Barcelona captain was one of the pillars of La Roja.
4. Puyol's 2009-2010 Season
At the turn of the decade, Barcelona were in a weird spot. They had just come off winning six trophies, but 2010 would not be their year.
Puyol led the Catalans to yet another La Liga title, but they missed out on the real prize. As reigning Champions League champions, Barcelona had the chance to repeat as winners, but it was not to be.
The Catalans lost in the semi-final to Inter Milan and it was a tough one to swallow. Now seasoned and leading the team with experienced shoulders, the result visibly affected Puyol. The captain was unhappy and looking for ways to help recapture European glory yet again.
Puyol had a great year in 2010. He was in the prime of his career and even helped Spain win their first-ever World Cup during the summer. But fans really saw how seriously he took defeat.
By the looks of it, Puyol blamed himself a lot for allowing the Catalans to fall short. The desire and willingness to take responsibility has always been an admirable part of Puyol's personality, and it would be something that defined him as a competitor.
In the end, Puyol and Barcelona came back better than ever.
3. Puyol's 2005-2006 Season
Despite all the club success that Puyol has had, there may not be another year quite as special to him as the 2005/2006 season.
Fresh off of his first year as captain and winning his first La Liga title, Puyol and company stepped up their game to achieve even more. Barcelona went on to repeat as La Liga champions as well as finish off the season by hoisting the Champions League trophy, Puyol's first.
There was no denying that this was Puyol's team. He was a Catalan of Catalans, the type of home-grown star that every club wants to have.
Puyol was living the dream and achieving great success. Little did he know this was only the start of what was to come.
2. Puyol's 2010-2011 Season
For some, the Barcelona side of 2010/2011 was the best the world had ever seen: Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique and the captain Carles Puyol.
The Catalans managed to dominate domestic play to win yet another La Liga trophy, but the Champions League was the real glory won that year.
Puyol was the lionhearted soul of that Barcelona side. He was the one leaving blood, sweat and tears on the pitch, and he was the one the players turned to when they needed guidance.
It was rather unfortunate that he was not able to actually play in the Champions League final, but Puyol was one of the biggest reasons why Barcelona was there in the first place.
It is interesting to note that all of the players mentioned above are still the faces of Barcelona. The likes of Xavi and Iniesta have grown even more, while Messi, Pique and Busquets are now in the prime of their careers.
However, Puyol was the leader of the last Barcelona side to win the Champions League. The Catalans have not been able to lift the trophy since 2011. Is it a coincidence that their struggles have hit a high point with Puyol not seeing the field regularly? He may be more important than anyone ever realised.
1. Puyol's 2008-2009 Season
Everyone saw this one coming. The most successful time in Barcelona's illustrious career has to be Puyol's best season as well.
Throughout the calendar year, Barcelona managed to win a total of six trophies, something that had never been done at the time. It was a year of magic and record breaking as fans and pundits alike struggled to find words to describe the Catalan club.
Yet, just like in the years leading up to it, Puyol remained the face of the club. Stars rose and fell, some came and some left, but Puyol remained with the heart and passion of a child and the determination of a warrior.
The last decade or so has been an unbelievable time in Barcelona's career. The club has seen unrivalled success and worldwide recognition. But we cannot forget who led the team day in and day out: Carles Puyol.
Would La Blaugrana have been as successful without the captain? I truly don't think so. He has been more than a star and a legend. Puyol is Barcelona and the day he retires will be a day of mourning.
What season do you think was Puyol's most successful? Just how important is the Barcelona captain to the club's success? Leave your thoughts and comments below!