As a defender Carles Puyol remains somewhat in the shadow of players such as Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto’o or Lionel Messi, but with his energy, stamina and focus, he remains a favourite in the Nou Camp and is an essential member of the current line-up. Considered to be one of the best defenders in the world, Carles Puyol is also the first Catalan captain to have held the Champions League Cup aloft after the team defeated Arsenal in May 2006, the competition in which he was awarded Defender of the Year.
As team captain since the 2003-2004 season after Phillip Cocu left Barcelona for PSV Eindhoven, Puyol’s stocky build with legs built like tree trunks and a trademark head of curly locks all belie his speed and agility on the pitch and once he removes his shirt he reveals a ripped torso that is the product of many hours of hard training, impressively fee of any sign of body fat.
In fact Puyol’s dedication is such that he objects to being left out of a single match selection, even if it is for a rest period when the team is playing a number of matches is a short space of time and he has been noted to attend training sessions where he was specifically given a rest day.
Born in La Pobla de Segur, which is located in the interior of Catalonia, on April 13 1978, as a boy Carles Puyol played for the local side. He was signed for the FC Barcelona B team in 1996 at the age of 17 and made is first team debut in 1999 under Louis Van Gaal, when visiting Barcelona beat Valladolid 2-0.
Currently playing in the centre-back position, Puyol first played for Barcelona in the right back position when he was promoted from the B team. His original position as a boy was in goal, but when shoulder injuries prevented him from continuing he began to play as a striker, perhaps contributing to his attacking mentality today - you can only imagine what he would have been like as a goalkeeper given his absolute determination to stop the ball as a defender, but what is sure is that he would have played hard, perhaps contributing to his injuries.
Although he plays in the Spanish selection, which he has also captained on occasion, Carles Puyol is a Barcelona diehard through and through and it is difficult to imagine him playing for any other club when his contract expires in 2010, whatever offer was on the table. While Messi has been brought up at Barcelona – and there is no doubt about his current dedication to the club – it remains to be seen whether he could be lured away, but players such as Ronaldinho and Eto’o, whatever their brilliance, can only ever be considered hired hands.
David Leigh lives in Barcelona where he is an infrequent visitor to see FC Barcelona play at the Nou Camp.