Why You'll Like Him
The 32-year-old has become a fixture in central defense for FC Barcelona and Spain this decade. His hard-nosed defending at center back provides the perfect balance to Spain's attacking flair. He is also a symbol of his native Catalonia. And then there's that hair.
Why You'll Hate Him
May catch some chagrin from Arsenal fans for encouraging the transfer of Cesc Fabregas to his Barcelona side. And then there's that hair.
Club Team: Barcelona B (1997-2000), Barcelona (2000-present)
National Team Debut: November 2000 against the Netherlands
World Cups: 2002, 2006
Began his career with several Spanish youth teams as a goalkeeper, defensive midielder, striker, right back before finally settling at center back. Has been with Barcelona the entire duration of his professional career. In 1999, then-Barcelona manager Louis van Gaal elevated Puyol to Barcelona's first team after spending three years with their B side. He has since become an icon in defense at Barcelona and has helped guide them to four La Liga titles, two European Cups and one Copa del Rey title. In the 2008-09 season alongside Gerard Pique, Puyol has made Barcelona one of the most decorated clubs in football history after winning an unprecendeted six trophies.
Since earning his first appearance in 2000, Puyol has since become an icon for La Furia Roja. His watertight defending has put Spain among the favorites to win the 2010 World Cup, a feat they've yet to accomplish. And who could blame the bookmakers as Puyol was partially responsible for Spain's allowance of just two conceded goals in five matches en route to a European Championship - their first in forty years - in 2008. Puyol has appeared in every major tournament of the last decade including an Olympics, two European Championships, and two World Cups.
What To Look For
One can always expect Puyol to make his presence known to oncoming attackers. Strong in the air as well as in the tackle, Puyol is also very tactically astute. True to Spain's possession-obsessed style of play, Puyol is on the ball a lot more than your typical central defender. He can also help launch the counterattack with a well-placed pass into midfield. At times he can roam to help out his full backs if they're in clear and present danger. Puyol is goalkeeper Iker Casillas' very dependable last line of defense. Don't expect much to get past either of them.
Nobody gets much past Jenna Pel, striker, creator, stopper, and `keeper at All White Kit, covering the women's game. Jenna will be contributing to SB Nation Soccer in the lead-up to the 2010 World Cup.
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