What Barcelona's Carles Puyol Must Do to Return to His Best

Tre' Atkinson@@TreAtkinsonFeatured ColumnistOctober 9, 2013

What Barcelona's Carles Puyol Must Do to Return to His Best

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    In May, Barcelona announced on their official website that captain Carles Puyol had successfully undergone knee surgery. He was expected to return after six weeks of recuperation, but he has only recently begun training.

    Reports from InsideSpanishFootball.com have claimed that Puyol is targeting a return against Osasuna which means the captain could be back on the pitch in just a matter of weeks.

    It is already clear that Puyol is going to make a comeback. What is really important is how much Puyol will be able to contribute when he returns to regular action for the Catalans.

    In this article we will take a look at what Puyol must do to return to his best and also how Barcelona can best use the 35-year-old defender.

Puyol Must Understand His Limitations

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    Carles Puyol isn’t the player he used to be. Once upon a time, he was one of the best center-backs in the world, but those days are now in the rear-view mirror.

    This doesn’t mean that the 35-year-old cannot play a big role in Barcelona’s season, but he must go about it the right way.

    Puyol must understand what he can’t do to know what he should do on the pitch. The pace has gone and his body isn’t quite as durable as it used to be, and he has to accept that.

    The Barcelona captain can no longer be a regular defender who tracks down attackers and takes the ball. His ability to single-handedly defend the ball or an attacker has left him and now he has to change his style.

    He must use his experience and positioning to defend by being in the right places and working with his teammates to defend as a unit. If Puyol tries to defend the way he used to, it won’t end well.

He Must Know What His Role Is

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    Carles Puyol is Barcelona’s undisputed captain and leader. However, he is not a starter and shouldn’t feature in the club’s most important matches.

    Having been the face of the defense for nearly a decade now, Puyol has not taken a backseat in a while. Once he makes his return he will be third or even fourth choice in the Barcelona defensive pecking order.

    This is a disappointing fact that Puyol must accept.

    He will not play as many matches as he would like and will most likely only see time in smaller matches. But now is the time for Puyol to mentor the younger generation such as Marc Bartra who could learn a lot from the captain.

    Once Puyol accepts his new role, he will be able to give his best in the matches he does play. He will be just as important of a figure at Barcelona as he always has been, but Puyol has to accept that things are different now.

Put Leadership Ahead of Playing

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    At 35 years old Puyol isn’t in the Barcelona squad because he is still one of the best defenders in the world. That used to be the case, but he is in the squad now because he is a figure at the club and a very important leader.

    The biggest role that Puyol could play at Barcelona will likely be off the pitch.

    He will be in training every day and on the bench quite a lot and it is during these times that Puyol can have the most effect on his club.

    But even on the pitch Puyol must put leadership ahead of anything else.

    He is one of the best in the world at leading a defense and telling his teammates what to do. This must be emphasized in the matches that Puyol does play and could play big dividends in the long run.

    To put it simply, Puyol cannot contribute what he used to in terms of purely defending. But he has that indefinable quality that makes everyone around him better and that will never go away.

Barcelona Must Find How Best to Use Puyol

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    In truth, manager Tata Martino will be the one that decides how to get the best out of Puyol. He will be the one making the decisions regarding the captain and will control just how much he plays.

    Martino has to figure out when to play Puyol and just how ready he is to feature in bigger matches. Puyol’s role will not be decided by himself and that is where the true issue is.

    Barcelona will only get the best out of Puyol if they use him in the right way.

    They must allow the captain to play while also being clear that he isn’t the first choice any more. If they try to use him as a starter again it could cause problems.

    Carles Puyol is going to give his all in every match, but Barcelona will have the task of deciding just how much they get out of the 35-year-old.

    How can Puyol return to his best? How should Barcelona use the captain? Leave your thoughts and comments below!

    Tre’ Atkinson. Follow me on Twitter for more discussions on FC Barcelona!