One hour until kickoff in Moscow, and Puyi is benched. Mixed feelings for me. Of course, I’d like to see him play (especially in cold weather), but I’d also like him to recover more before he gets into all those acrobatics on the pitch. I’ve decided to translate this article from El Pais, which paints a solid picture of what kind of captain he is while extolling the virtues of his yelling on the field.
LAS BRONCAS DEL CAPITAN
The Scoldings of the Captain – by Luis Martin
Just one look from Messi to Villa, with or without reproach, is enough to be considered a scolding, a gesture in bad taste, an unnecessary sign of misunderstood leadership, of despotism in football. And in the dressing room, starting with El Guaje and ending with La Pulga, they laugh and look at Puyol. “For scoldings, he’s the man,” the teammates celebrate. Strained to the limit during matches, the voice of the captain motivates the team, which celebrated his return to the competition inasmuch as they were able to close Valdes’ goal against Zaragoza. The feeling is that with the return of Puyi, Barça gains nerve and attentiveness, not to say anything less of those who had played until then, rather simply because his scoldings are noted.
Tito Vilanova said it clearly: “Puyol is important because of what he brings to the defense, but above all because of what he transmits to us. Because of this, he is the captain.” Cesc Fabregas also said: “We consider him vital. He is the captain and he exemplifies the values of courage, discipline, valor… He never backs down, always gives the maximum. Time passes, and it seems like every time, he gets better. On a personal level, he is a friend who is always there in the difficult moments. I appreciate him a lot.” “Puyi doesn’t stop, he is exhausting,” explains Pique, who is used to relating an anecdote that occurred in one of his first matches in Barça: “Puyi was yelling at me ‘Geri, Geri! Pay attention!’ And again. ‘Geriiii!’ In the end, I turned to him and asked ‘Pay attention to what?’ To whatever, you get distracted!” Pique has not forgotten that, when that happened, there was a rival player on the ground and there was a stretcher on the field, that Barça had scored a lot of goals, and it was barely a minute until the end of the match. “He’s like that. At his side, you are a better player because you are driven every minute.”
“Of course I hear him shouting on the pitch! We all hear!”, exclaims Pedro, convinced that the voice of the captain is as necessary as their last minute crosses when the striker is ready to score. “Puyi is the boss and, because he has a good vision of the game, we get organized,” says the Canarian. “He is always missed, so now having him fit to play is good news,” says Iniesta. “Puyol pulls us all.”
It’s the same thing with Xavi: “More than his speed and good positioning, Puyi is contagious and doesn’t let anyone get distracted. For me, listening to his voice behind me calms me, I know he’s there and nothing bad can happen to us.” “Not only in matches, also during training,” he adds. Even Sergio Ramos, rival from Madrid and teammate in the national team, recognizes this: “Puyol is an example.” In this line also comes Bartra, who looks beyond what happens on the pitch. “During the matches, during training and in the dressing room, he is always there to help us, to correct us or to encourage us. And you don’t know how much it’s appreciated,” says the centerback, now injured and out for 15 days.
Now Barça has conceded 1.25 goals per match, the worst start in the last decade, a fact as historic as the 11 accumulated victories. And to correct the dysfunctions, Puyol has arrived with his elbow still not fully recovered, with the injury he has said is his “worst experience”. His voice sounds the alarm and the team is mobilized to defend. Such occurred on Saturday, when Montañes scored. At first, he cursed his luck; then he remembered that there had to be a player in front, as he had studied; then he shouted at the team to snuff it out and ended up facing the assistant referee, who was passing by, onto the next play. There was even more ruckus from Puyi in his fifth match of the season. Among others was the doctor, Ricard Pruna, when he was substituted with the understanding that he had some discomfort. The protesting gestures of the captain spoke gestures from the moment he transferred the armband to Xavi.
Single, a lover of new technology and of self-help techniques, the blaugrana captain negotiates his renewal for life. More than his football, Barça needs his character. With him, you can’t save even Messi, who sometimes looks at Villa and they say he’s foulfaced. Because for scoldings, Puyi’s the man.
I hope he yells all the way from bench!