Carles Puyol Saforcada ([ˈkaɾləs puˈjɔl i sɐfuɾˈkaðɐ]; born 13 April 1978) is a Spanish retired professional footballer. Mainly a central defender, he could also play on either flank, mostly as a right-back, and was regarded as one of the greatest defenders of all time .
A one-club man, he served as the long-time team captain for his only club Barcelona after taking over from Luis Enrique in August 2004, and went on to appear in 593 competitive matches for the club and win 18 major titles, notably six La Liga trophies and three Champions League titles.
A Spain international on 100 occasions, Puyol was part of the squad that won the Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup tournaments. In the latter competition's semi-final, he scored the only goal of the game against Germany.
Born in La Pobla de Segur, Lleida, Catalonia, Puyol started playing football for his hometown club as a goalkeeper, but after injury problems with his shoulder he switched to forward. He said that in his youth, "My parents were skeptical about me becoming a footballer and encouraged me to study." In 1995, he joined FC Barcelona's youth system at La Masia, switching positions again, to play as a defensive midfielder; two years later, he started playing for the club's B-team, occupying the position of right-back.
In 1998, Barcelona accepted an offer from Málaga CF to sell Puyol, who was behind Frank de Boer and Michael Reiziger in the pecking order. However, he refused to leave after seeing his best friend Xavi make his first-team debut.
Louis van Gaal promoted Puyol to the first team the following year, and he made his La Liga debut on 2 October 1999 in a 2–0 away win against Real Valladolid. After that he successfully made another conversion, now to central defender. During the 2003 off-season, as Barcelona was immersed in a financial crisis, Manchester United showed interest in acquiring Puyol's services, but no move ever materialised; two years later, the player extended his contract for a further five seasons.
Puyol was named club captain at the end of 2003–04, after the retirement of Luis Enrique. He continued to be a defensive cornerstone for Barça, being awarded the "Best European right-back" award by UEFA in 2002 (amongst other individual accolades), and helping the Catalans win two consecutive league titles. In 2005–06 he appeared in a total of 52 official games, including 12 in that season's UEFA Champions League which ended in victory against Arsenal, the Spaniards second European Cup.
On 16 September 2008, Puyol made his 400th appearance in all competitions for Barcelona's first team in a Champions League group stage match against Sporting CP. In the league season, despite injury problems, he contributed to the team by appearing in 28 matches and helped them win another league title. His only goal came against Real Madrid in El Clásico at the Santiago Bernabéu on 2 May 2009 which finished with a resounding 6–2 away win, and he celebrated his goal by kissing his Catalan flag armband in front of the incensed Madrid fans; he was essential to the team winning the 2009 UEFA Super Cup, the 2009 Champions League and the 2009 FIFA Club World Cup, appearing in nearly 100 official matches, and described the club as "the team who every Catalan child wants to play for... I am living the dream playing football for Barça and it is my dream to retire playing here."
On 13 November 2010, Puyol played his 500th game in all competitions for Barcelona's first team in a domestic league tie against Villarreal CF. He struggled again with injuries during the campaign, but still appeared in 28 competitive matches while again winning the league and the Champions League; he played six minutes in the final of the latter competition, a 3–1 victory over Manchester United.
Since the defeat to Inter Milan in the 2009–10 Champions League semi-final, Puyol went on to take part in 56 official matches for Barcelona without losing, a run that only ended on 11 January 2012 at CA Osasuna (2–3 loss). Additionally, he scored two goals in the season's Copa del Rey, against Real Madrid (2–1 away win, 4–3 on aggregate) and Valencia CF (1–1 away, 3–1 aggregate).
On 2 October 2012, in the late stages of a Champions League group stage encounter at S.L. Benfica, his first game upon recovering from a knee ligament injury suffered against Getafe CF, Puyol dislocated his elbow after landing awkwardly in a corner kick challenge. He was initially expected to be sidelined for two months but fully recovered in one. On 18 December Barcelona renewed his contract, extending it until 30 June 2016. In June of the following year he again underwent surgery on his right knee, his sixth operation as a professional, which led to thoughts of early retirement.
On 2 March 2014, Puyol surpassed Migueli to go second in Barça's all-time league appearances table, behind only Xavi, and scored the third goal in a 4–1 home win against UD Almería. Two days later, although he still had two more years in his contract, he announced that he would leave Barcelona at the end of the season. He 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 than myself and the surgeons thought necessary. That's the reason I have reached this decision".
Barcelona bid farewell to Puyol on 15 May 2014, after a fifteen-year career in the first team (ten as captain) that brought him 21 titles. At a packed Auditori 1899, his teammates, ex-teammates, presidents and coaches paid tribute to him, and he said, "I’ve lived the dream of so many young kids, doing what I most enjoy in life, playing football and training". He announced his retirement shortly after at the age of 36 but stayed connected to his only club; he was immediately appointed director of football Andoni Zubizarreta's assistant. He resigned in January 2015, shortly after Zubizarreta was fired.
In September 2019, Puyol rejected an offer to become Barcelona's sporting director.
Puyol won his first cap for Spain on 15 November 2000 against the Netherlands, and remained a regular fixture in the following years. He played for his country at the 2000 Olympics, 2002 FIFA World Cup, UEFA Euro 2004, 2006 World Cup, Euro 2008, 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2010 World Cup.
Puyol started every game except one at Euro 2008, and Spain's defence only conceded two goals in his five games. They won the final against Germany, and he was named in the Team of the Tournament alongside his defensive partner, Carlos Marchena of Valencia. He started in three out of five matches at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, and acted as captain when Iker Casillas was rested for the last group stage match. They finished third, and Puyol was included in the Team of the Tournament with four of his teammates.
In the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Puyol started every match and played almost every minute (he was replaced by Marchena in the 84th minute of the quarter-final against Paraguay). He scored the only goal in the semi-final with Germany, a powerful header from a corner taken by Barcelona teammate Xavi, which sent the national team through to their first World Cup final. In the decisive match, he played the full 120 minutes as the side defeated the Netherlands 1–0.
On 1 August 2010, aged 32, Puyol announced that he would continue to represent the national team for at least another two years. He missed Euro 2012 due to a knee injury sustained in a league game against RCD Espanyol in early May, which required surgery and five to six weeks' recuperation.
Puyol played his 100th international on 6 February 2013, captaining Spain to a 3–1 friendly win over Uruguay in Doha, Qatar.
Style of play
Puyol was known for his commanding presence in the air, his composure on the ball and his intense commitment and ruggedness. According to Barcelona's head doctor, he was "the strongest, who has the quickest reactions, and who has the most explosive strength." Club fans referred to him as "The Wall". Miguel Ángel Nadal, who played with him for a short period of time, said, "Carles plays with maturity, has great positional sense, and above all, has pride in his shirt."
Puyol was also known for his leadership and work ethic. He often continued training alone after the end of a team practice session or on days off. He said in 2010, "I don't have Romário's technique, [Marc] Overmars' pace or [Patrick] Kluivert's strength. But I work harder than the others. I'm like the student who is not as clever, but revises for his exams and does OK in the end."
Fellow defender Gerard Piqué said: "He's someone who, even if you're winning 3–0 and there's a few seconds left in the game will shout at the top of his voice at you if he thinks your concentration is going." A former team-mate said, "Even four goals down he thinks we can still win", and another described him as "a pain in the arse" but added "that's exactly what we need".
Puyol's long shaggy hair was a distinctive feature throughout his career. Barcelona manager Van Gaal suggested he get it cut when the player was 19, immediately after his first training session with the senior players: "What's your problem, can't you afford the money for a haircut?", Van Gaal asked him in his office. "I said nothing," Puyol remembered, "and to this day have kept my hair as it is.
In 2006, Puyol said that when not working, he leads "a very quiet life... I've not been to a nightclub in Barcelona for years either. When I go out, I stay in a restaurant with my friends."
Puyol's father, Josep, died in a farming accident in late 2006 while Carles was on his way to play a match against Deportivo de La Coruña. He was informed of the news by coach Frank Rijkaard upon landing. He said that this, combined with an injury led to a dark period, with Spanish national team physio Raúl Martínez eventually coming to Barcelona: in the player's words, "...[he] gave me a great telling off. He made me react, and I began to try to be more cheerful, and not overwhelmed by it all."
In March 2009, Puyol told Goal.com: "I do not like to go out much, although it is good to disconnect and I like to read." In September 2010, he started a relationship with model Malena Costa. In October of that year, he scored through a header in a 2–1 home win against Valencia CF and dedicated the goal to her by making a heart symbol with both hands. “I dedicate the goal to my girlfriend”, he said after the game.
In 2011, Puyol paid €30,000 for specialist private treatment for Miki Roqué, a footballer from his home province who was suffering from pelvic cancer. However, the latter died in 2012.
Puyol started a relationship with Vanessa Lorenzo in 2012. The couple had two daughters, Manuela (born 2014) and María (2016).
Puyol was invited by Iranian television channel IRIB TV3 to provide commentary on the World Cup match between Iran and Spain on 20 June 2018 in a programme hosted by Adel Ferdosipour, but was not allowed in the studio. According to news website Entekhab, the former player said that he had been told by the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting that he could not appear in the programme "because of his looks (long hair)"; the veteran channel director had been replaced by one closer to Iran's ultra-religious hardliners weeks before, and this incident ultimately led to some ridicule within Iran on Twitter.
|Club||Season||League||Copa del Rey||Europe||Other||Total|
|Barcelona B||1996–97||Segunda División||1||1||—||1||1|
|1997–98||Segunda División B||42||3||—||42||3|
|1999–2000||Segunda División B||8||0||—||8||0|
|1.||17 April 2002||Windsor Park, Belfast, Northern Ireland||Northern Ireland||0–4||0–5||Friendly|
|2.||11 October 2008||A. Le Coq Arena, Tallinn, Estonia||Estonia||0–3||0–3||2010 World Cup qualification|
|3.||7 July 2010||Moses Mabhida, Durban, South Africa||Germany||0–1||0–1||2010 FIFA World Cup|
- La Liga: 2004–05, 2005–06, 2008–09, 2009–10, 2010–11, 2012–13
- Copa del Rey: 2008–09, 2011–12
- Supercopa de España: 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010
- UEFA Champions League: 2005–06, 2008–09, 2010–11
- UEFA Super Cup: 2009
- FIFA Club World Cup: 2009, 2011
- FIFA World Cup: 2010
- UEFA European Championship: 2008
- Summer Olympics: Silver medal 2000
- FIFA Confederations Cup: Third-place 2009
- La Liga Breakthrough Player of the Year: 2001
- ESM Team of the Year: 2001–02, 2002–03, 2004–05, 2005–06
- UEFA Team of the Year: 2002, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010
- UEFA Club Best Defender: 2006
- FIFA/FIFPro World XI: 2007, 2008, 2010
- UEFA Euro 2008 Team of the Tournament
- 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup Team of the Tournament
- FIFA World Cup Dream Team: 2010
- BBVA Fair Play award: 2011–12
- UEFA Ultimate Team of the Year (published 2015)
- World XI: Team of the 21st Century
- UEFA Euro All-time XI (published 2016)
- Golden Foot: 2016, as football legend
- One Club Man Award: 2018
- Prince of Asturias Awards: 2010
- Gold Medal of the Royal Order of Sporting Merit: 2011