An Interview With Carles Puyol: Captain, Leader, Integrity
15 years, 21 titles and a legacy to match. Carles Puyol's career has seen him take home three Champions League winners medals, six La Liga titles, two Copa del Rey's, two UEFA Super Cups and a World Cup, but there's one special reason why I'll remember Barcelona's very own Tarzan - integrity.
"I don't have Romário's technique, Marc Overmars' pace or Patrick Kluivert's strength, but I work harder than the others." Carles said. "I'm like the student who is not as clever, but studies for his exams and does okay in the end."
If a quote had to sum up this incredibly hard working, down-to-earth hairy bloke from the small town of La Pobla de Segur in Catalonia, this would be it.
And on a cloudy but mild day in Bogota, I stood in silence, awaiting the highly anticipated arrival of Carles in a small indoor soccer venue called La 10. It didn't scream spectacular but it did the job, a rather fitting example of the man himself.
He got on with his job at Barcelona without much acclaim, but he was effective and stood tall amongst his peers.
While waiting, a surge of Puyol's greatest moments hit me.
From inviting AC Milan midfielder Ronaldinho to join the Barcelona team photo in 2010, to placing the captain's armband on teammate Eric Abidal's arm when he famously lifted the Champions League trophy, just months after being diagnosed with cancer, it dawns on me that the Spaniard is more than just a cult hero for his playing ability.
In a typically selfless quote soon after Abidal lifted the cup, Puyol said that the greatest moment during his 15 year career was the 2011 Champions League win at Wembley. Not because of the result, but the fact that his friend was able to lift the trophy after a long battle with illness. Now that screams integrity.
Along with the morals that stood him in such high regard during his career, a story from one of his closest friends Gerard Pique, who he talks about in our interview below, really typifies his attitude to the cause.
As told by Sid Lowe from The Guardian, the Barcelona defender describes Puyol with a perfect story:
"I can't imagine a Barcelona team without him," Piqué says. "He wears me out! I remember the day he came back after injury and in the middle of the game I said: 'Puyi, I've missed you so much.' He told me to shut the hell up and concentrate. He never stops.
"One time, the game was stopped, someone was on the stretcher, and he was shouting at me. I said to him: Calm down, it's 4-0 and there are three minutes left.' He said: 'So what? Focus! I know you.' I was dying with laughter.
"Puyol keeps you on your toes at all times."
Back to Bogota and after 10 minutes of waiting, Puyol stepped out of a car with wife Vanessa Lorenzo and his entourage. He was cool, calm and collected. Just like i'd imagined.
Before diving into our interview, let's discuss the reason why I was able to attend such an incredible event.
Heineken provided fans from Jamaica, Panama, Colombia, Egypt, India and Vietnam the chance of a lifetime to meet Carles and the Champions League trophy.
The Trophy Tour made its way across the city of Bogota, giving fans a chance to take a picture with the 16½ pound cup. As you can see below, it was certainly a lively evening in the bustling city, with hundreds swarming around at every possible opportunity.
In the past, the renowned Trophy Tour has reached 26 countries, including Africa, Asia, North and South America, with players such as Ronaldinho, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Luis Garcia appearing on the 2017 trip.
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Guy-Laurent Epstein, Head of Marketing and Sponsorship at UEFA said:
"The UEFA Champions League is the pinnacle of European club football and followed passionately by football fans across the globe. With The UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour presented by Heineken, we're showcasing the global reach of the tournament while rewarding the dedication of US fans by taking the trophy directly to them."
(Picture credit: Getty Images)
(Picture credit: Getty Images)
Finally, I got the chance to sit down with Carles and we chatted about all things football.
What struck me most about the former Barcelona captain was his humble approach to everything and everyone. He made time to sign every autograph. He maintained a smile in every picture and that earned my respect. A man of his word.
Here's our interview with the man himself:
Can you name your greatest Champions League XI:
CP: "Victor Valdes would have to be the goalkeeper. Javier Zanetti at right-back. Gerard Pique and Paulo Maldini as the two centre-backs, with Roberto Carlos making up the back four."
"I'd then have Sergio Busquets as my defensive midfielder, with Xavi and Iniesta joining him in the midfield."
"Finally, Ronaldinho would join Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto'o as the forwards."
Who is the best player you've ever played with during your career:
CP: Without doubt, Lionel Messi.
Who was your toughest opponent during your playing career?
CP: For me, It was Lionel Messi when I was playing for the national team. But for club, It was Chelsea's Didier Drogba.
Who's going to be the next Barcelona manager after Luis Enrique announced his decision to leave at the end of the season?
CP: "I don't know. For me, it is not my job! (laughs)
Is there one moment during your career that stands out from the rest?
CP: "My favourite memory had to be in 2006 when we won the Champions League Final in Paris against Arsenal."
Who is your best friend in football?
CP: "I have four special friends in football. Luis Enrique, Ivan de la Peña, Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique."
Thank you Carles and thank you Heineken for allowing us to attend such a magnificent event.
Fans can follow #ChampionTheTrophy on Twitter to keep up with the action around the Trophy Tour. You can also get more information on the trophy tour at @Heineken_IN on Twitter and @Heineken on Facebook.
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