offpitch | 2015-09-14
Puyol: Our generation changed Barça's history, it's a reason to be proud
Luís Martin from El País sat down to discuss with Barça's eternal captain Carles Puyol about his career in the Champions League, and how his generation changed Barça forever. You can read the interview in Spanish here.
Do you know how many Champions League games you played?
No, I know the total number of games I played for Barcelona, but not how many I did in the Champions League. How many were there?
120 games. And do you know how many goals you scored?
One or two, right? I don’t remember.
Is that because of your lack of ego or because of bad memory?
I don’t have a great memory, but that wasn’t my job, so having scored one goal more or less doesn’t worry me too much. I remember I scored one after a free kick. The ball was in the box, it ended up at my feet after some deflections and I shot. The other one I don’t know, probably after a corner kick. I always knew that my job was defending.
You’ve faced hundreds of forwards that you’ve had to mark. Who was the one who was the hardest to deal with?
Drogba. He is very hard to handle, he’s a complete forward, very strong, he looks for the contact so that he can get a reference point with the defender. Because of his physique I was the small one, so I had to avoid the contact or I was lost. I had to be very careful to find the right position and not allow him to get the contact he wanted.
That intense defending of your gave us one of the iconic images of your career when you stopped a shot with your chest in a game against Lokomotiv. Do you remember that?
Yes, I remember that one, basically because people remind me of it often and it’s always doing the rounds on social media. I enjoyed doing my job a lot. I liked defending. Football has left me with many memories, a lot of moments, not just those that happened during games, victories and happiness, but also those that happened in bad moments, when we lost, and memories of friends and hours spent in the dressing room with my teammates.
Do you remember your debut? Was that a dream come true?
Yes, it was against AIK. We won 5-0. A lot of youngsters were playing that day and Gabri scored a goal. I have fulfilled my dreams little by little. I was a kid from La Pobla who only had one dream: to play for Barça. Once I achieved that, the idea was to stay at the team the most time I could and little by little I made my own way, feeling like a protagonist. I look back and I’m very happy and satisfied, I was lucky to have those 15 years training and playing football in my team and to win all that we won. I am a culé since I was born so you can imagine what I feel when I think about what I’ve achieved.
What makes a Champions League match different to a league one?
First of all, the time that it’s played at is perfect. And the ritual, the way in which you go onto the pitch, the music. It’s a competition where everyone wants to be because historically only the champions played it even if it’s a bit different now. In any case, the best teams are playing it, so the best football players are playing in it. The ritual, the preparation before the game changes too: you travel the day before, train in that stadium, if you play at home you spend the night before at a hotel...
Could you choose one of the 120 Champions League games you played?
Probably one of the finals, but the 0-2 at the Bernabeu was special too, because of everything: what happened the day before, how we played, the atmosphere and because I played both games against Madrid in that semifinal while carrying an injury. I have the match ball at home. My knee was a mess; I was living just for those games. They took me out of the icebox, I played and then went back to the icebox. We qualified, made it to Wembley and played the perfect final. I think it’s hard to play better than we did that day against United.
So of the three finals would you choose Wembley?
No, Paris. It was the first and my dad was there. It was the only game of mine he came to see. That really was a dream come true.
When you were promoted to the first team Barça only had one Champions League trophy, the one from Wembley in 1992. Kluivert asked where the other were when he got here.
That was weird for me too, because with the players that Barça had lots of good players over the years and hadn’t won it until 1992. It wasn’t normal.
The question is: do you feel like your generation has changed history?
Absolutely. That’s a reason for satisfaction and pride. I hope that soon we will have more titles because we have the team to keep competing for them. Actually, the important thing is being where we are now. Winning the Champions League is complicated and it depends on details, on a bit of luck. Look at the Stamford Bridge game when Iniesta scored. Chelsea was the better team and we won, but then the next time we deserved to qualify and they did.
In Barça’s Champions League history is there a time before and after Messi?
Yes, because it’s the difference between having or not having the best player in history. He can win you games on his own, but it’s true that he’s had exceptional players by his side. He’s aware of this. He had a coach who bets on the players raised in the academy and that solid core made sense of his idea. We are aware that this team is different. Our greatness is winning these Champions League trophies with a concrete style, idea and philosophy, with eight played raised here. That makes everything bigger. It wasn’t just winning, it was the style and the way in which we won.
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