FC Barcelona captain Carles Puyol brought the curtain down on a 15-year senior playing career with the Catalan club during a farewell ceremony at the Blaugrana headquarters.
The 36-year-old had announced his decision to leave Barcelona in March, citing an ongoing knee complaint as the reason for his departure. At Thursday's official farewell inside the Auditori 1899, the defender again spoke of the injury that has ended his trophy-laden spell at Camp Nou.
"As I told you a few months ago, the problems in my knee haven't been improving and so my time as a Barcelona player will come to an end on 30 June," Puyol explained to an audience of players past and present, family and friends, club officials and journalists. "[The club's medics and I] have tried to find a solution but it hasn't been possible – however, that doesn't mean I’m giving up. Right now, I want to get my knee better, not [just] so that I can play again, but so that I can do sports, so that I can go running, which I cannot do right now."
Joined on stage by Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu and sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta, Puyol said he felt "privileged to have lived the dream of thousands of kids" in racking up 593 appearances and winning 21 major trophies for Barça. "The one thing I have very clear is that I gave my absolute all for Barcelona and for football and I would like to be remembered as a player who did just that – who gave everything," the centre-back said.
As for his future plans, the UEFA EURO 2008 and 2010 FIFA World Cup winner with Spain said he had yet to reach a concrete decision. "Coaching is not what I would most like to do although you can never say never," Puyol said. "Right now, I find training to work in other areas of the club more appealing, but I still don't know.
"For 19 years I have been able to do what I love. I've won many trophies but what will remain with me is the human side of this club. I would like to thank the presidents, the employees, the coaches and my team-mates," 'Puyi' added. "I will never forget the fans and their support; they have always been by my side. I have been lucky to have played with the best players and the best people. Finally, I would like to pay tribute to those who are not here: my father, Miki Roqué, Luis Aragonés and Tito Vilanova."
With his side in action against Club Atlético de Madrid on Saturday in a game Barcelona must win in order to lift their 23rd Liga championship, Puyol said: "I don't think I will need to give a speech to the squad before the match. It's a 'final' we have to win and with our supporters on our side, I am sure we will do it."
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