Carles Puyol has announced he will leave Barcelona at the end of the current season, but may still continue his career at another club.
Puyol has been dogged by knee injuries going back more than 18 months, and admitted last May that he had come close to retiring when suffering several setbacks during the 2012-13 season, having also missed out on Euro 2012 with a related injury.
The club captain, who turns 36 in April, has also been hampered by knee problems throughout the current campaign. He told a surprise news conference before Barca training on Tuesday afternoon that he had decided that the injuries meant he could not continue beyond June in a Blaugrana shirt.
"I am here to announce I am leaving Barcelona at the end of the season,” Puyol said. "The club and I have agreed to rescind the two remaining years on my contract.
"After two such aggressive operations, it is costing me a lot to recover the level I demand of myself to stay here. Much more than the surgeons told me. This does not mean I am leaving today, there are still three months of competition left. Those who know me know I will keep fighting until the end to help the team achieve its objectives this season.”
The 2008 European Championship and 2010 World Cup-winner said he was not yet announcing his full retirement from the game, and would decide at the end of the season whether he would then join another club.
"I do not know what I will do after June 30,” Puyol said. "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.”
Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta, Puyol’s agent Ramon Sostres, his long-term defensive partner Gerard Pique and teammates Cristian Tello and Jose Pinto were in the press-room.
Lleida-born Puyol came through Barca’s famed La Masia youth setup and has gone on to play 593 official games for the Catalan club.
Since making his senior debut at Valladolid in October 1999, he has won 21 trophies including three Champions Leagues, six La Liga titles, two Copa del Reys and two FIFA Club World Cups. He has played 12 first-team games so far in this campaign, and scored on his most recent appearance -- hooking in from close range in last weekend’s 4-1 La Liga win over Almeria at the Camp Nou.
Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes has already confirmed he will leave the club when his contract ends this summer, and has reportedly been offered deals by Monaco and Manchester City. Playmaker Xavi Hernandez, 34, denied in January that he had been approached by MLS side New York Red Bulls, and has been more recently linked with a move to join up with former Spain teammate Raul Gonzalez in Qatar.