As he nears his 600th FC Barcelona appearance, defender Carles Puyol has decided this will be his last season with the club where he has won 21 major trophies.
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FC Barcelona's emblematic captain Carles Puyol has announced his decision to call time on his 19-year association with the Spanish champions at the end of the current campaign due to a long-standing and persistent knee injury.
Addressing a media conference called at Barcelona's headquarters to reveal the move, the 35-year-old centre-back – who has scored 18 goals in 593 games for the Blaugrana – said: "After my last two major operations, I find it is taking me a lot of effort to reach the level required here, even more of an effort than myself and the surgeons thought necessary. That's the reason I have reached this decision."
Puyol has sustained almost 40 injuries during his 15 top-flight seasons and missed Spain's successful defence of their European crown at UEFA EURO 2012 following surgery on his right knee. The same joint was responsible for cutting short his 2012/13 campaign in mid-March. This term he has been restricted to five Liga outings, from a career total of 392, supplemented by 13 goals.
"I am not going to get caught up in [the emotion of] today," Puyol continued. "There are three months of the season left and those who know me, know I will continue to fight to improve [my fitness] and help the team achieve their objectives. I don't know what will happen after 30 June but what I realise clearly is that once the season is over, I will need to rest."
Puyol signed for Barça in 1995 and began his schooling at La Masia, the club's world-renowned academy. After rising through the ranks, he made his debut as a right-back under Louis van Gaal in a 2-0 win at Real Valladolid CF in October 1999.
His first Liga title – which he lifted as captain – came in 2005, then 12 months later he climbed the steps at the Stade de France to raise aloft the UEFA Champions League trophy following a final victory over Arsenal FC. It was the Blaugrana's second European Cup, after their 1991/92 triumph.
As he continued to rack up appearances, so the trophies continued to flow and Puyol's personal haul now includes six Ligas, three UEFA Champions Leagues, two FIFA Club World Cups, two UEFA Super Cups, two Spanish Cups and six Spanish Super Cups. He also won UEFA EURO 2008 and the 2010 FIFA World Cup, having scored three times in 100 matches for Spain.
Puyol finished his press conference, saying: "I would like to call another at the end of the season – to say goodbye to everyone who has been with me these past 19 years. Then I will respond to every single one of your questions. See you soon."