If you look up "captain" or "leader" in the dictionary of football then Carles Puyol's name should come up.
Barcelona legend Puyol captained the Blaugrana to a slew of trophies, including three Champions League triumphs, six La Liga titles, two Copa del Rey trophies and two UEFA Super Cups during a glittering 15-year spell.
The Spain international had a wonderful career after getting the absolute maximum out of his abilities. The man himself even said as much.
"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 studies for his exams and does okay in the end," Puyol is quoted as saying.
That drive, determination and mentality was what separated Puyol from the rest. His desire to win is unrivalled. We're talking about a guy who would have no problem put his head in where it hurts.
He once headed away a bullet from Roberto Carlos yards away while on the goal-line. Years later he said the effort "nearly ripped his head off" but a goal was avoided and that was all that mattered to Puyol.
And even in retirement, the absolute competitor in him remained. During a game of tennis with a friend, Puyol smashed through glass to get a ball back and was left with blood dripping down his leg and arm.
He forged a reputation for being hard as nails, yet at the same time he was all about fairness and sportsmanship.
In 2012, Puyol forced Thiago and Dani Alves to apologise for a dancing celebration in a 7-0 win over Rayo Vallecano because he felt they disrespected the opposition, while he memorably got rid of a lighter that had been thrown at Gerard Pique by Real Madrid fans in rapid time so that play could resume.
What's more, he's as selfless as they come.
When Barcelona won the 2011 Champions League at Wembley, Puyol placed the captain's armband on teammate Eric Abidal's arm and let the Frenchman lift the trophy, just months after being diagnosed with cancer.
Throwback to 2011 when Puyol let Eric Abidal lift the Champions league trophy against United in the final at Wembley after suffering with cancer.
- BG (@BGFtbl) June 29, 2019
When the team won La Liga in 2013, Puyol replicated his gesture and allowed Abidal, fresh from a liver transplant, to lift the trophy with Tito Vilanova, who was suffering from throat cancer that would later sadly claim his life.
Puyol also invited Ronaldinho, then at AC Milan, into Barcelona's pre-match squad photo after the Joan Gamper Trophy match in 2010.
What a player and what a man. Happy birthday Carles.
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