MADRID, October 5 – Barcelona captain Carles Puyol celebrated a glorious 10 years of service with the Spanish giants as the European champions beat Almeria 1-0, lapping up the plaudits from team-mates and his coach.Puyol, 31, could not have envisaged such a distinguised career when he made his debut back on October 2, 1999 in a 2-0 league win over Valladolid.
Since then Puyol has played 449 official games for Barcelona lifting three league titles (2005, 2006, 2009) and two Champions League titles (2006, 2009) as captain.
"To have played for so many years with Barca and to have won so many trophies is a dream," said Puyol. "I hope to win a lot more and to continue giving everything to the team, just like I have since day one."
Puyol, a Euro 2008 winner with Spain, has led by example since Frank Rijkaard appointed him captain in 2004 and has stood the test of time with few injuries and a strict training regime affording him such a long career.
"We have lived through times that have not been as good as they are now, but he has always been there to support his team-mates and is always trying to raise their morale," said goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
"He is an example when it comes to diet and fitness because he takes care of the details of looking after himself.
"He has some very good habits because despite being 31 he never has dropped his level of play."
Gerard Pique said Puyol had helped him to improve and saluted the leadership qualities of his defensive partner.
"I am proud to have him as my captain because he always deserves to wear the armband," said Pique.
"He helps me a lot and knows exactly what his role is and how the team works so he guides the defence."
Puyol’s future is currently up in the air as he ponders a contract offer from Barcelona who want him to stay on despite signing Ukraine international centre-back Dmitry Chigrinsky for 25 million euros in the summer.
Coach Pep Guardiola wants Puyol to end his days with the club but accepts it is a difficult decision to make.
"I want to pay my congratulations to Carles because it is not easy to be with a club of this size for so long," said Guardiola.
"The club want him to stay but he has been here a long time and it is his decision whether he stays or not."