After 15 seasons, 593 appearances and 21 trophies, it is now official that the Carles Puyol era is coming to an end when Barcelona closes out their current season. The move was relatively easy to forecast considering Puyol has has only appeared in 18 La Liga games for the club since August 2012 because of constant injuries. Nevertheless, it will prove to be the loss of a legend, although it looks increasingly likely to be a gain for MLS, and specifically one of the league’s two New York franchises.
Puyol showed the utter class and dedication to Barcelona that has defined his career while announcing his retirement, yet left the door wide open to play more football outside the club. The specific quote that left this door open was a bit vague, as the 36-year-old said, “I do not know what I will do after June 30, but for sure I know I will need to rest when the season ends. I have had four years without stopping because of the injuries. That is what I will do. We will see what happens then.”
And while in recent months Puyol has been dogged by injury and lost some of the pace that helped him track down forwards in past years, there is no doubting that teams in MLS will be lining up to sign him. The two sides that the defender has had contact with already are the New York Red Bulls and NYCFC. When looking at the pros and cons of going to either side, it is clear that NYCFC are the more likely destination of the two.
When it comes to the New York Red Bulls there is no doubting the club makes sense in terms of player personnel and potential earnings for Puyol. After all, they have former teammate Thierry Henry on board and a world class midfielder in Tim Cahill, leaving a designated player spot for the central defender to take up without counting against the salary cap. Additionally, they won the Supporters’ Shield in 2013 as the club who had the most points in MLS and look likely to repeat again in 2014.
Still, it is clear that NYCFC is a better fit for Puyol at this point in time. Despite being an expansion side in 2015, there is no doubting NYCFC will be a key player in MLS right from the get-go. Their ties with Manchester City will allow them a big checkbook and great connections. That the club’s CEO Ferran Soriano is a former Barcelona executive will only help lure Puyol over, as will the fact that the club has promised to fill its three designated player spots and bring over a few players from Manchester City on loans. Simply put, this is a club that will have massive amounts of talent from the beginning, and Jason Kreis will have them playing in a style as similar to that of Barcelona as any club in the league.
What looks most likely to seal the deal for Puyol coming over to NYCFC is that they don’t begin play until March of 2015, and thus the central defender will have ample time to rest. As he previously noted, Puyol wants to take a slight break before jumping into play, and out of the two New York MLS sides only NYCFC can offer this. This makes them the favorites to sign the central defender at this point where he would become the face of the franchise and have a chance to win a few trophies before retiring from football.