Carles Puyol

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Ex-Barca great Puyol tells Neymar to clarify future plans

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Will he or won’t he go? That seems to be the biggest question on the minds of Barcelona supporters and players alike as one of the club’s brightest stars continues to mull a move away from the Camp Nou this summer.

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Brazilian forward Neymar is reportedly on the verge of being snagged by French giants Paris Saint-Germain as the club prepares to exercise the player’s $261-plus million release clause.

While the 25-year-old remains coy over his future despite a dust-up on Friday during training with new signing Nelson Semedo, Neymar’s potential exit could change the landscape of both teams involved just before the 2017/18 season kicks off next month.

That’s why former Barca great Carles Puyol is calling for the Brazilian to clear up his future plans.

“I do not know what’s going to happen,” Puyol told Marca. “He’s the one who has to talk and explain what he wants to do, because I cannot control him.

“The decision should be taken by him. I am not responsible for the club so I do not know if they have decided something.

“I do not know if he has dreams of leaving, but it’s harder for a player to do stay with the same team for their whole career. Football is changing but there are still cases: [Lionel] Messi, [Sergio] Busquets, [Andres] Iniesta. I think he has love for the shirt but then there are other factors.”

Neymar has lived up to the billing thus far in his European career since arriving in Spain from Brazilian powers Santos. In his time with the Catalan club, the forward has tallied 105 goals across all competitions for the Blaugrana, while helping his side to two La Liga crowns, three Copa del Rey titles and a UEFA Champions League triumph.

Barcelona’s trials continue with firing of director, resignation of Puyol

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Times are tough, relatively speaking, at the Camp Nou.

Both the short-term and the long-term have ominous undertones when it comes to Barcelona. The club lost to Real Sociedad on Sunday, failing to take advantage of a Real Madrid loss, and is in the midst of a year-long transfer ban.

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The dour notes kept sounding on Monday, as Barca fired club legend Andoni Zubizarreta (right) from his position as director of football. Additionally, recently-retired back Carles Puyol resigned from his position as assistant sporting director.

From the BBC:

(Puyol) said: “These three and a half months have given me the opportunity to see another side of the club.

“I want to grow both personally and professionally so that, in the future, hopefully I can return to this house and give back everything you have given me during these unforgettable years.”

Zubizarreta was the Nou Camp club’s keeper between 1986 and 1994. He also played for Spain, making 126 appearances.

“The president, in the name of the club, thanks Andoni Zubizarreta for his contribution, dedication and professionalism over the last four years in his role at the head of the club’s football area,” Barcelona’s statement added.

What a mess at Barca. No wonder the vultures are circling over the club, hoping to pick Lionel Messi.

Cruyff says Puyol could have played in Barcelona’s Dream Team

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Until Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona teams recently won two European titles, the teams Dutch legend Johan Cruyff assembled in the late 1980s and early 1990s were held alone at Barça’s standard for greatness. According to Cruyff, speaking today at Carles Puyol’s retirement, the defensive linchpin for Barça’s recent standard bearers would have easily fit with his own European Cup winner.

Cruyff’s teams were the first to leverage the production of Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy, producing talents like GuardiolaJosé Mari Bakero and Txiki Begiristain to combine with the likes of Romário. Hristo Stoichkov, and Michael Laudrup. The club won four consecutive league titles starting in 1991 and also claimed the 1992 European Cup.

According to the team’s coach, Puyol — a six-time league-winner and three-time European champion — would have had no problem having an impact in another of Barcelona’s legendary squads.

“I’m sure Puyol could have played for the Dream Team,” Cruyff said on Thursday, according to AS.com.

Had he played in Barcelona’s 1992 team, Puyol would have likely started next to former Cruyff teammate Ronald Koeman, whose extra time free kick at Wembley delivered the 1992 European Cup to Barcelona. He would have also been next to a young Albert Ferrer, who went on to make over 200 league appearances for the club.

At 35, however, Puyol was a teenager when the Dream Team was collecting trophies – an age that leaves him only 35 at retirement. According to Cruyff, the World Cup-winner still has a lot to give the game.

“[Puyol’s] life isn’t going to stop, he’s 35 – he’s got many years ahead of him and he has so much knowledge to share.”

Carles Puyol retires after 14-year career with Barcelona, citing knee issues

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Despite heavy links to Major League Soccer after previously announcing the end to his Barcelona tenure, defender Carles Puyol instead has decided to retire due to knee injuries.

Puyol spent his entire career with Barcelona, coming through their academy and making his first-team debut in 1999 under Louis van Gaal.

The 36-year-old said today that he has “lived the dream of so many young kids, doing what I most enjoy in life, playing football and training.”

His illustrious career has just about everything a professional player in Europe can accumulate, having won six La Liga titles, three Champions League tournaments, a European championship and a World Cup with Spain where he earned 100 caps.

Puyol earlier this season told supporters he would not be back at Barcelona at the expiry of his contract this summer, which sparked plenty of speculation that he could be on his way to play in the United States.  He was also linked to other clubs across Europe, including AC Milan.

However, after just five La Liga appearances this season thanks to knee injuries that wouldn’t go away, Puyol instead decided to hang up his boots and put a cap to a rare career with just one club.

“I’ve won lots of titles but the most important thing is the human warmth and feeling I take from this club,” Puyol said of Barcelona at a press conference attended by the team and management. “I came here as a boy and I’m leaving with a family who I’m really proud of.”

“The one thing I have very clear is that I gave my absolute all for Barcelona and for football and I would like to be remembered as a player who did just that – who gave everything,”

Puyol finishes with 582 total appearances for Barcelona, including 392 La Liga appearances and 124 in the Champions League.  He grabbed 19 goals, and was only sent off three times in his entire domestic career.

He added that he does not wish at this time to get into coaching or managing, saying, ” I don’t think I’ll be a coach, it’s not what I’d like most.  Maybe I’ll change my mind but for now I want to do other things.”

Club president Josep Bartomeu called Puyol “the best captain in the history of the club” and Lionel Messi said to his former teammate, “I’m lucky to have shared the dressing room with you.”

Barcelona’s transfer ban suspended by FIFA, should allow club to make summer moves

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The “complexity” of the improper conduct case involving Barcelona will likely allow the Spanish giant to conduct transfer business this summer, as its 14-month transfer ban has been suspended by FIFA during the club’s appeal.

FIFA expects the investigation to take longer than July 1, which means it would eat into the transfer window regardless of whether the ban is expected to hold up or the appeal successful.

Barca received a transfer ban earlier this month for illegal activity on signing players under the age of 18, the latest in a string of off-field drama for the club that has included tax fraud in the Neymar signing and an investigation into tax evasion for Lionel Messi.

And with the club set to embark on a crucial summer of player activity after a relatively-unsuccessful season — and without longtime stars Carles Puyol and Victor Valdes — the suspension of the ban is quite timely.

As for the “why” and “how” of the ban, this is from the BBC:

Fifa rules state  that international transfers are only permitted for players over the age of 18 – unless the player in question meets one of three qualifying criteria.

Under-18s can move to a club in a different country if their parents move there for non-footballing reasons, if they are from another nation within the European Union or European Economic Area and aged between 16 and 18, or if they live within 100km of the club.

The Fifa investigation centred on several players aged under 18 who were registered and played for Barcelona between 2009 and 2013.

Fifa told BBC Sport the identity of these players is confidential.

Perhaps Barca’s size is working in its favor in multiple ways here. FIFA could be granting leniency to a rich club, but also it may need the time to search through the pages of a club busier than most others. In any event, this is a massive break for the Blaugranas and will no doubt be met with consternation by Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and the rest of Spain, while also leading to a fresh batch of Lionel Messi departure rumors.