Athletic Club presented Carles Puyol with the fourth One-Club Man award. Puyol played in defence for FC Barcelona from 1999-2000 until 2013-14. In that time he played 593 official matches for the club. This award seeks to acknowledge players outside Athletic Club who spent their entire career at the same team.
Puyol received his One-Club Man Award trophy at San Mamés on Saturday, May 5 during the half-time interval in the game between Athletic Club and Real Betis.
Beyond the trophies and medals in his cabinet, beyond the recognitions from the world of football, through the one-club man award Athletic Club wants to honour the career of a footballer who embodies the values this award holds dear.
Carles Puyol left La Pobla for Barcelona, his boyhood club, at the age of 17. His journey to the first team was not easy. He was about to leave the Blaugrana to sign for Racing Santander when an injury to Michael Reiziger gave him the opportunity he was looking for and he made the most of it.
During his first five years, Puyol earned his place in the hearts of the Barça fans after marking Figo out of the game in Portuguese’s return to the Camp Nou, but Puyol did not win any tournaments. His quality caught the attention of other clubs, who attempted to lure him away with sizeable offers and the promise of the coveted titles.
It was then that Puyol best embodied one of the core values of the One-Club Man Award: loyalty. Throughout his career, on more than one occasion, he has reiterated his belief that winning a title is better when done “with the team that you carry in your heart”. He always felt that the feeling of belonging and the happiness created by sharing glory with fellow fans greatly enhanced any victory.
Another of the values that history will always associate with Puyol and one also lauded by the One-Club Man Award is sportsmanship. The respect he displayed for his rivals on the pitch and rival fans always prevailed over any other aspect of the competition. Equally remarkable is the integrity with which Puyol overcame adversities throughout his football career.
Throughout his career he had to deal with personal blows such as the illness of his companion Abidal, the death of Tito Vilanova, and, above all, the death of his father. Apart from that there were injury issues. He suffered a total of 40 injuries, almost all a consequence of his courage and bravery. But Puyol always got up and returned to battle, and he always did it for the same club, the club he loved.