BARCELONA defender Carles Puyol has announced he will stop playing for Barcelona at the end of the season.
The shaggy-haired stopper, who has made nearly 600 first-team appearances for the Catalan giants, made the announcement at a press conference this afternoon.
As well as turning out for the Barcelona first team since the late 1990s, Puyol made over 100 appearances for the Spanish national side and a handful for the Catalan national side.
A favourite with the Barcelona fans, the 35-year-old made his debut in October 1999 in a 2–0 away win against Real Valladolid, and despite injury struggles - he has undergone six operations during his career - continued to play regularly for the Blaugrana.
A product of La Masia, the Barcelona academy, Puyol said in a 2008 interview with Sports Illustrated: “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.”
During his 15-year career in Barcelona’s first team, Puyol racked up a number of honours, including six La Liga titles, two Copa del Rey wins, six Supercopa de Espana titles, three Champions League titles, as well as one World Cup and one European Championship title apiece.
He was also named UEFA Club Best defender in 2006, and was regularly selected for teams of the season.
Friend, compatriot and Barcelona team-mate Xavi Hernandez said in a Guardian interview in 2008: “Puyol is the key - not just because he is one of the best defenders in the world but because of his character. He never lets up. If he sees you relax at all, he’s suddenly at your side demanding more.”
An unidentified former team-mate added: “Even four goals down he thinks we can still win.”
Only Xavi has made more first team appearances for Barcelona - 709 - but for the first time in their careers, both players scored in the same match in Barcelona’s 2-0 win against Almeria.