MADRID (AP) — Barcelona captain Carles Puyol reluctantly retired from soccer on Thursday, his right knee no longer able to endure the demands of defending after a 15-season career that included 21 trophies.
The 36-year-old with the shaggy, dark hair made 593 appearances and led the Blaugrana to six Spanish league championships, three Champions League titles and two Copa del Rey championships. He also won the FIFA Club World Cup and European Super Cup two times each and the Spanish Super Cup six times.
Barcelona would earn another league title if it beats Atletico Madrid on Saturday.
Puyol has had six operations on his right knee while with Barcelona and has appeared in just 12 games this season.
"We couldn't find a solution, though we never stopped trying," Puyol said.
He is second on Barcelona's games played list behind teammate Xavi Hernandez's 722. Puyol made 100 appearances for Spain, helping win the 2008 European Championship and 2010 World Cup.
"For me this is the end of an era. A new one begins, and I wish I will enjoy it as much as I've enjoyed this one," Puyol said. "I can't believe the career I've had. I've lived the dream of millions of children."