Who Is Carles Puyol
Updated: Dec 12, 2020
Who Is Carles Puyol
Carles Puyol Saforcada, born 13th April 1978, is a retired professional footballer from Spain who played his entire career for Barcelona. Mainly a central defender, he is widely considered one of the best defenders of his generation – however he also played in full-back position, mostly as a right-back. Appearing in 593 competitive matches for the club and winning 18 major club titles, he was Barcelona’s captain from August 2004 until he retired in 2014.
Born in La Pobla de Segur, Spain, Puyol was one of the two sons of Josep Puyol and Rosa Saforcada. He, along with his older brother Josep Xavier, was a diehard Barcelona fan, and the two would mimic their heroes as they played football in the streets.
Puyol started playing football for his hometown club, where he was a goalkeeper, but after a back problem he was forced to stop. In an interview, he speaks of his parents’ scepticism towards football: “My parents were sceptical about me becoming a footballer and encouraged me to study”. Despite their apprehension, in 1995, Puyol went on to join Barcelona’s youth team at La Masia, where he played as a defensive mid-fielder. Two years later, he was promoted to the club’s B-team, where he played right-back. “Now my parents are happy. They don’t tell me to study anymore, but to work hard because there is competition for places at Barça”, Puyol said of his parents.
In 1998, Barcelona accepted an offer for Puyol from Málaga CF. However, after seeing his best friend Xavi make his first-team debut, Puyol decided to stay with his original team. The following year, Puyol was joined his friend as he was promoted to the first team. He made his La Liga debut in 1999, scoring 2-0 in an away game against Real Valladolid, before switching positions to central defender.
In 2003, Barcelona was immersed in a financial crisis with a deficit of around €36 million. Manchester United seemed interested in signing Puyol, but he stayed loyal to his home team. This proved to be a wise decision as, following the retirement of Luis Enrique at the end of the 2003/04 season, Puyol was named club captain. In 2005, he extended his contract with Barcelona for a further five seasons.
As a defender, Puyol proved to be integral to the team’s success. In 2002, he was awarded Best European right-back by UEFA as he helped the Catalans win two consecutive league titles. In 2005/06, he appeared in 52 games, including 12 in the season’s UEFA Champions League, where Barcelona won against Arsenal and secured their second European Cup.
In 2008, Puyol appeared for Barcelona for the 400th time in a Champions League group stage against Sporting CP. Despite injuries, he appeared in 28 matches that season, helping his team to secure another league title. He scored just one goal that season, during a game against Real Madrid. His team won 6-2, and Puyol celebrated his goal by kissing his Catalan flag armband in front of the irate Madrid fans.
He proved essential to the team’s wins that season, as they secured the 2009 Copa del Rey, the 2009 Champions League, the 2009 UEFA Super Cup and the 2009 FIFA Club World Cup – securing an unprecedented sextuple. Despite losing to Inter Milan in the 2009/10 Champions League semi-final, Puyol went on to participate in Barcelona’s 56-match winning streak, which ended in 2012 with a 2-3 loss at CA Osasuna. In the 2010/11 season, Puyol once again struggled with injuries. However, he appeared in another 28 matches, pushing his team to league and Champions League wins.
In 2012, at his first game after recovering from a knee ligament injury, Puyol dislocated his elbow after landing awkwardly in a corner kick challenge. He was initially expected to be sidelined for two months, but recovered fully in half the time. In December of that year, he extended his contract until 2016. However, in June of the next year, he was forced to undergo surgery on his right knee – his sixth operation as a professional footballer. This led to Puyol considering an early retirement.
In 2014, Puyol became second in Barcelona’s all-time league appearance table, behind his friend Xavi. Two days later – with two years left in his contract – he announced that he would retire at the end of the season, due to the toll his injuries were taking on him: “After my last two major operations, I find it is taking me a lot of effort to reach the level required here, even more than myself and my surgeons thought necessary. That’s the reason I have reached this decision.”
Puyol left Barcelona in May of 2014, after a 15-year career on the first team and 10 years as the team’s captain. His career saw him earn 21 titled. He spoke of his time as a footballer fondly: “I’ve lived the dream of so many young kids, doing what I most enjoy in life, playing football and training.”
Puyol’s international career on the Spanish National Team was impressive. Winning his first cap for Spain in 2000 against the Netherlands, he remained a regular player in the following years. He played for the country at the 2000 Olympics, 2002 FIFA World Cup, UEFA Euro 2004, 2006 World Cup, Euro 2008, 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup and 2010 World Cup.
During the 2002 World Cup, Puyol scored an own goal against Paraguay in the group stages, but Spain won 3-1 regardless. Spain were eliminated by South Korea in the quarter-finals of the competition, after a 5-3 defeat.
At the 2008 Euros, Puyol started all but one game, with Spain’s defence conceding only two goals in five games. After winning the final against Germany, Puyol and his defensive partner, Carlos Marchena, were named in the Team of the Tournament. During the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, he was once again included in the Team of the Tournament along with 4 of his teammates.
In the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Puyol once again started every match and played almost every minute. He scored a header – the only goal of the game – in the semi-final with Germany, propelling the team through to their first World Cup final. Spain conceded only two goals throughout the entire tournament and kept five clean sheets – a record for a World Cup winning team. Once again, Puyol was named to the Team of the Tournament, after completing an impressive 88% of his passes – the 3rd highest completion rate of any player in the competition.
Though Puyol announced his intentions to represent the national team for at least another two years in 2010, he missed the 2012 Euros due to a knee injury that required surgery and 5 to 6 weeks recovery time. The following year, he was also ruled out of the Confederations Cup due to injuries. In 2013, Puyol played his 100th and final international game, leading Spain to a 3-1 victory in a friendly against Uruguay in Doha, Qatar.
Appearances: 595 / Goals: 19 / Assists: 13
3x Champions League winner
2x FIFA Club World Cup winner
6x Spanish Champion
3x UEFA Supercup winner
2x Spanish Cut winner
8x Spanish Supercup winner
1x World Cup winner
1x European Champion
3x World Cup participant
2x Euro participant
La Liga Breakthrough Player of the Year
4x ESM Team of the Year
6x UEFA Team of the Year
UEFA Club Best Defender
3x FIFA/FIFPro World XI
UEFA European Championship Team of the Tournament
FIFA Confederations Cup Team of the Tournament
FIFA World Cup Dream Team
BBVA Fair Play award
UEFA Ultimate Team of the Year
World XI: Team of the 21st Century
UEFA Euro All-time XI
One Club Man Award
Ronaldinho praised Puyol in an interview, speaking of how the captain’s mentorship shaped his desire to help other players: "When I started at Gremio I had experienced players helping me, my friends Beto and Guilherme. At Barça it was Carles Puyol, my big brother, my eternal captain who is always with me at charity events. I wanted to give back.”
Puyol’s admiration for Messi is clear. In interviews, he speaks of Messi very fondly: “He is a huge asset for La Liga, he is one of the best in the world." He even argued that Messi should not retire until his late 30s, arguing that there is no need for Barcelona to envision a future without the player.
Xavi and Puyol were incredibly close during their footballing careers. So much so, in fact, that when asked about the possibility of coaching a football team, Xavi said that he would not consider doing so unless he could work alongside Puyol.
Where Is He Now?
When Puyol initially hung up his football boots, he initially planned to take up the role of Assistant Sporting Director in Barcelona’s Football Department. However, today he prefers to live a quiet life as a devoted father. Speaking on his parental role, Puyol stated: “for my whole career, except the last few months, I wasn’t a father. Now that I have children, not playing football means I get a chance to enjoy my daughters.”