*Says Messi’s best footballer ever but Barcelona’s bigger than him
By Patrick Omorodion
Carles Puyol Saforcada, a retired Spanish professional footballer who played his entire career for Barcelona was in Nigeria last week for three days as a Brand Ambassador of the UEFA Champions League, courtesy of Heineken.
He was on tour of two cities, first Uyo and then Lagos with the UEFA Champions League Trophy. He played in the Unmissable Match at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, leading the Chairman Team, representing Heineken against the Shine Shine Bobo Team, representing Star Lager, a popular brand of Nigeria Breweries PLC which was captained by former Super Eagles captain, Austin Jay Jay Okocha
Puyol, a central defender in his days with FC Barcelona which he helped lift the Champions League on three occasions, 2005/2006, 2008/2009 and 2010/2011, replicated the leadership qualities that made Barcelona tick while he was captain in the Unmissable match where his side humbled
Okocha’s side 5-2 despite Okocha exhibiting his dribbling prowess and scoring a fantastic free kick.
Speaking during one of the occasions of the Trophy Tour, Puyol said he has fond memories of Africa and her people having achieved the ultimate price in world football, the World Cup on African soil in 2010.
“Africa holds one of the best memories in my life. It was in South Africa that Spain was crowned the world champions in 2010 for the first time. While in South Africa I saw the passion the people have for football. This is my first time in Nigeria but I feel the same thing. When I see the people of Africa, I feel they have real passion for football,” he said.
He said that on his arrival in Nigeria that he tried some of the Nigerian foods and “I discovered that Nigerians like spicy food just like I do.”
On the partnership between Heineken and the UEFA Champions League, the six time LaLiga champion said the Heineken brand was doing a great job of bringing the Champions League to the people and that he was also lucky to be part of the competition at a time.
“Heineken has done well to bring the Champions League to fans all over the world. I am also lucky to have travelled with them to some countries and seen the passion the fans have for the Champions League.
It feels good to know that you have not only played in the competition but have also won it and to meet the fans is fantastic,” he stressed.
Puyol said the best thing for him is to play in the Champions League but that now as a retired player, “it is a good feeling to be drinking my Heineken and be watching the game with my friends.”
He spoke about the three Champions League titles he has won but said the first won in 2005/2006 holds fantastic memories for him because that was the only one his father came to watch before he passed on,
“All the Champions League I’ve won were fantastic memories but if I have to choose one of them, it has to be the one of 2005/2006, because I helped Barcelona all the way and it was the only one my father watched before he passed on. As you see, it is a very difficult competition and one bad day could mean you are out of the competition.
There are a lot of surprises in the 2018/2019 edition of the Champions League, Barcelona need to concentrate and focus on the competition, fortuntely the LaLiga is almost in the bag and so the team can concentrate more on winning the Champions League.
The 41-year old former central defender will not miss speaking on Lionel Messi and his position in Barcelona or world football. Asked what he thinks would happen to Barcelona if Messi retires, Puyol said, “Messi is a great player, he is the best player in the history of world football but Barcelona is bigger than Messi. If he retires from football, Barcelona will remain a great team.”
Asked again what he thinks about Andre Iniesta winning the best player at the 2010 World Cup but losing that year’s Ballon d’Or to Messi, he said though Iniesta was equally good in 2010, Messi deserved to win it because that was the decision of the voters.
“Like I said previuosly, Messi remains the best in the history of world football and that is something that is voted for and you have to accept the result of the vote. Iniesta was also one of the players that year but Messi won the vote and I think he deserves it,”’ he stressed.
Asked to pick his best eleven Barcelona players ever, Puyol said, “ it is impossible to pick the best player right now but if I have to take a team, it has to be the team of the 2008/2009 season.” That is the team with whom he won his second Champions League title.