Barcelona captain Carles Puyol has announced he will retire at the end of the season due to a persistent knee injury. There have been many claims in recent years that a specific loss or personnel change has marked the end of an era for Barcelona and almost all of them have been exaggerated nonsense. But it's difficult not to see Puyol's departure as a loss of that magnitude.
Puyol has spend his entire career with Barca. The start of the tribute video below shows when a shy 14-year-old Puyol was tipped for the first team and referred to as "the hairiest" one television in 1992.
In a club increasingly criticized for coming off as pompous and arrogant, Puyol has always been a player who has been impossible to dislike even while fully committing himself to the "more than a club" mantra in a non-ironic way. He's the type of player who will break up his teammates' prolonged goal celebration choreography, get his face stapled in the middle of a match and refuse to cover his legs with a grandma blanket like everyone else while sitting on the bench in Moscow.
He's also the type of person who would take off his captain's armband, put it on a teammate who just returned from having a surgery to remove a tumor and have him be first to lift the Champions League trophy.
Upon announcing his departure, Puyol said (via Sky Sports):
"I am a man of few words but I will try and explain how I'm feeling.
"As I said a few months ago, my knee is still troubling me and my time at Barca will end from June 30.
"We've tried to find a solution but that's not been possible. But I want to thank everyone at the club. I can now fight my injury without the pressure of playing.
"I've done what I've always wanted to do and been very happy. I've lived the dream of thousands of children and I'm privileged.
"I came here as a child and I leave with a family. I want to thank all those at the club who have made the club work every day that I have been here."
Puyol (and his hair) will be missed not just by Barcelona fans, but all supporters of the game and of good people.
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