MADRID, Mar. 4 (Xinhua) -- FC Barcelona's veteran captain, Carles Puyol announced to a packed press conference on Tuesday that he would be leaving the club at the end of the current season.
The 35-year-old, who will be 36 next month, has won six league titles, three Champions Leagues, two Copas del Rey, six Spanish Supercups and two European Supercups, as well as forming part of the Spain squad which won the 2008 European Championship and 2010 World Cup, becoming a symbol for FC Barcelona in the process.
He would have a 2012 European Champions medal as well except for a knee injury which stopped him from performing in that competition and it is his knees which have finally forced Puyol to draw the curtain on a career which have seen him play 100 times for Spain and 392 league appearances for FC Barcelona's first team, plus another 89 for the club's B-team.
Puyol made his first team debut under the guidance of Louis Van Gaal in October 1999 and his last game to date was against Almeria last Sunday, in a game in which he scored a rare goal to make the score 3-1 in an eventual 4-1 win.
However, Puyol has made only five league appearances this current campaign as his troublesome knees have limited his capacity to play two games in a week.
"After the two aggressive operations I have needed, it has been very hard for me to recover the level which I demand of myself to continue here," said Puyol in the conference where he was surrounded by team-mates, as well as the club Doctor, Ricard Pruna and Director of Sport, Andoni Zubizarreta. "It has been tougher than I thought it would be and harder than the doctors told me. That is why I have made the decision," he added.
Puyol has renounced two years of a contract, which he only renewed last season and which would have taken him until 2016.
"We have decided to rescind the contract," he explained, adding that there were still three months left in the current season and he was not hanging up his boots at the moment.
Meanwhile the man who will leave Barcelona after 19 years at the club, added that he had not taken a decision as to what he would do at the end of the campaign, meaning that he could continue his career somewhere such as Qatar or the US.
Finally Puyol said he would hold another press conference at the end of the season in order to, "say goodbye to all of those who have accompanied me through those 19 years."
Words of praise have come for Puyol from all over the Spanish game with Spain coach saying the defender was "an example for us all and a referencce point both on and off the pitch, while Barca team-mate Cesc Fabrigas commennted that "not everyone has the courage to take a decisin like the one he has just taken.