Carles Puyol has some unfinished business to attend to when he jets into Abu Dhabi with his Barcelona team-mates for the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2009. The Azulgrana captain was on the losing side three years ago when Brazil’s Internacional took the global club crown, and is determined not to go through a similar experience this time around.
As he explained in an exclusive chat with FIFA.com, the centre-half has identified the showpiece in the Emirates as one of his main priorities for the current season, given the FIFA Club World Cup is one of the few prizes in the game yet to adorn the Culé trophy cabinet.
The unmistakable defender has made a massive contribution to Barcelona’s recent triumphs, leading the side with distinction during a golden period in which they have collected accolade after accolade. Such sustained success has not dampened his appetite for more silverware, however. “The Club World Cup is very important for us,” he assured. “We want to win every trophy and this is one that got away from us in 2006. That’s why we are absolutely determined to go out and win it in December.”
Memories of that final defeat three years ago are still fresh in Puyol’s mind, an unfortunate experience that he is confident will not be repeated on this occasion. “When you take part in a competition like this you always feel that it’s your turn to win it,” he said.
“We were very motivated for that tournament and you could see in our games that we went on the attack right from the kick-off. We had chances to score but we didn’t take them and when they hit us on the counter we didn’t have any time to come back. We’ve got another chance now, though, and we’ll make sure we win the title.”
Confident he may be, but Puyol does not believe the tournament will be a procession for the European champions. “We know we are going to come up against some quality teams and there’s no way we’ll be overconfident. We don’t know the other sides that well as they are not Spanish or European, so we’ll need to study them closely. We haven’t watched all the videos yet but the coaching staff are taking care of all that and we’ll get to see them when the competition comes around.”
Of all Barcelona’s potential opponents, Puyol is most familiar with Copa Libertadores holders Estudiantes. “They are a team of fighters and they’ll be big favourites along with us,” he explained, before hailing their big star Juan Sebastian Veron: “He’s a fantastic player and has so much class. We have to get to the final before we can start talking about it, though, and no matter who we play they’re bound to make it tough for us.”
Hungry for more
Puyol identifies the FIFA Club World Cup as the first of many exciting challenges in the months ahead, but acknowledges the difficulty of repeating the spectacular success of last season. “It’s tough because the opposition is so strong in every competition," he said. "But we have lots of quality and our minds are set on winning everything. That means every competition is a priority, but we know it won’t be easy.”
Looking further ahead, Puyol also has his sights on the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, where he and his Spain colleagues will set out to make history by landing the country’s first senior world title. Does that challenge require a different approach to the one he adopts for his club? “Not at all. I am completely committed to Barcelona and Spain and I want to win as many trophies as possible with them. As I said, my priority is to win every competition I take part in.”
His task is made easier by the fact that both club and country play a similar kind of game. “Yes, there’s not much difference in the tactics we use, which also has a lot to do with the fact that there’s a lot of Barça players in the national side," he explained. "There are also plenty of other quality players in the Spain team too, and it’s a pleasure to play for both sides.”
The king of all he surveyed in Spain and Europe last season, Puyol is eager to enjoy the same kind of dominance on the international scene by winning at both Abu Dhabi 2009 and South Africa 2010. “That is something I dream about of course,” he said. “But first you have to prove it on the pitch. I’m an optimist and I’m going to do my very best to achieve those goals.”