May 15, 2014, 1:55 PM EDT
Despite heavy links to Major League Soccer after previously announcing the end to his Barcelona tenure, defender Carles Puyol instead has decided to retire due to knee injuries.
Puyol spent his entire career with Barcelona, coming through their academy and making his first-team debut in 1999 under Louis van Gaal.
The 36-year-old said today that he has “lived the dream of so many young kids, doing what I most enjoy in life, playing football and training.”
His illustrious career has just about everything a professional player in Europe can accumulate, having won six La Liga titles, three Champions League tournaments, a European championship and a World Cup with Spain where he earned 100 caps.
Puyol earlier this season told supporters he would not be back at Barcelona at the expiry of his contract this summer, which sparked plenty of speculation that he could be on his way to play in the United States. He was also linked to other clubs across Europe, including AC Milan.
However, after just five La Liga appearances this season thanks to knee injuries that wouldn’t go away, Puyol instead decided to hang up his boots and put a cap to a rare career with just one club.
“I’ve won lots of titles but the most important thing is the human warmth and feeling I take from this club,” Puyol said of Barcelona at a press conference attended by the team and management. “I came here as a boy and I’m leaving with a family who I’m really proud of.”
“The one thing I have very clear is that I gave my absolute all for Barcelona and for football and I would like to be remembered as a player who did just that – who gave everything,”
Puyol finishes with 582 total appearances for Barcelona, including 392 La Liga appearances and 124 in the Champions League. He grabbed 19 goals, and was only sent off three times in his entire domestic career.
He added that he does not wish at this time to get into coaching or managing, saying, ” I don’t think I’ll be a coach, it’s not what I’d like most. Maybe I’ll change my mind but for now I want to do other things.”
Club president Josep Bartomeu called Puyol “the best captain in the history of the club” and Lionel Messi said to his former teammate, “I’m lucky to have shared the dressing room with you.”
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