Carles Puyol was the dictionary definition of what it meant to be a centre-back for a generation of football fans across the world, the gold standard of defenders with Catalan blood running through his veins.
His no-nonsense approach to defending, which was coupled with elegance and grace, earmarked Puyol as one of the greatest of all time, but it was also the Spaniard's
Carles Puyol is widely remembered as one of the best defenders of all time and for good reason, but just like every great story has to have an ending, they also have a beginning.
Puyol's came in 1999, in a La Liga match against
Half an hour before the end, Puyol was brought on by Louis van Gaal
Title-Deciding El Clásico
Few matches with Real Madrid have quite as much meaning as their clash on May 2, 2009.
The two clubs met at the
Gonzalo Higuaín's opener was cancelled out by Thierry Henry early on, and two minutes late Puyol completed the turnaround with his first goal of the season. Lionel Messi
Goal-Saving Block vs Lokomotiv Moscow
Centre-back partner Frank de Boer might have grabbed the headlines for scoring the only goal of the match during Barcelona's Champions League group stage match against Lokomotiv Moscow in 2002, but it was Puyol who came up with the best moment of the match.
After forward James Obiorah rounded Barcelona's goalkeeper midway through the second half, only Carles Puyol stood in the way of the Nigerian and an open goal at Camp Nou some 25-yards out.
Obiorah took the ball to the edge of the penalty area before finally firing a shot which would have nestled into the back of the net, but Puyol dived across to block the ball with his chest in one of the Champions League's most iconic moments ever.
Winning the World Cup
With two Champions League titles, four La Liga's and even a European trophy with Spain, Puyol picked up the final piece of the puzzle at the World Cup in South Africa.
Throughout the tournament, Spain only ever won one game by more than one goal, which came during the group stages against Honduras.
But it was La Roja's outstanding work at the back - they conceded just two goals in the competition - which was led by Puyol that ensured they would go on to win the tournament in 2010.
Puyol's impact was even felt in an attacking sense for Vicente del Bosque's side, as it was his goal which sent Spain into the final of the World Cup thanks to his second-half header against Germany in the semis.
Eric Abidal Lifts the Champions League Trophy
"I can’t explain the emotions I have," Eric Abidal said after Barcelona's win in the Champions League final in 2011, quoted by Goal. "It's spectacular. I'm so thankful for the gesture."
Puyol was only introduced against Manchester United in the dying seconds of the match, with strikes from Pedro, Lionel Messi and David Villa wrapping the game up well in advance of his substitution.
But the captain's arrival on the Wembley turf ensured that he would be the one to lift the Champions League trophy after the match, even though it was still likely had he remained on the bench.
In an outstanding selfless act, however, Puyol gave the armband to his teammate Abidal so that could lift European football's biggest prize, just weeks after the Frenchman had recovered from surgery to remove a tumour on his liver.
Winning Six Trophies in One Season
The Barcelona team circa 2009 is still held up as one of history's greatest ever club teams, and for good reason.
Under the guidance of Pep Guardiola, Barcelona won six trophies including La Liga and the Champions League - a moment of history in European football.
Puyol captained the side's most successful year in their history, sandwiched between his two major honours for Spain, to fully establish himself as one of the best defenders, leaders and footballers in general that the world has ever seen.