Barcelona – Barcelona captain Carles Puyol had to fight back tears as he said he has played his last game for the club after 593 appearances spanning a 15-year career.
Atletico Madrid visit the Camp Nou on Saturday in a match that will decide the La Liga title, but Puyol will not play a part in trying to win the seventh Spanish championship of his illustrious career.
“I am not going to play. I have spoken with the coaches and we are playing for a title so those that are 100 percent have to play. I won't even be on the bench,” he said at a press conference on Thursday.
Puyol confirmed in March that he would rescind his playing contract at the end of the current campaign due to an ongoing knee injury, but hinted he could stay with the Catalans beyond the end of the season in a different capacity.
“My idea is to recover. It has been a difficult year when I have not been able to be with the team and help them in difficult moments. I have to recover not to play necessarily, but to have an active life which I can't at the moment.
“I could continue with the club, but not as a manager. I don't see myself as being a manager.”
Puyol has been linked with moves to Major League Soccer in the United States or joining his old international teammate Raul in Qatar, but ruled out continuing his playing career until he can prove he is fit enough.
“I need to be honest and I couldn't play for anyone at the moment because me knee isn't responding, so I wouldn't want to kid anyone trying to sign me or myself.”
On top of his six La Liga titles, Puyol also led Barca to three Champions Leagues, two Copa del Reys, two World Club Cups and six Spanish Supercups as well as winning the 2008 European Championships and 2010 World Cup with Spain.
“I have lived the dream of millions of children,” he said on a reflection of his career.
“For 19 years I woken up to do what I most love, which is training and playing football.”
Two of Puyol's former coaches at Barcelona Louis Van Gaal and Pep Guardiola were among a series of former and current colleagues that paid tribute to Puyol's lion-hearted playing style.
And in a dedication on behalf of the current playing squad, midfielder Xavi Hernandez described him as the “best professional” he has ever played with.
“Thank you for all that you have given us; your courage, bravery and sacrifice, you are an example.
“You are the best professional I have ever shared a dressing room with by quite a distance and any of your teammates would say the same.” – Sapa-AFP