Carles Puyol says he thought about retiring given the seriousness of his injury problems this season, but he plans to be back fit and ready to play for Barcelona from the start of next season.
Puyol, the Barcelona captain, has not featured at all since undergoing a surprise knee operation in mid-March, and not officially spoken in public during that time - although in early May he did tweet a denial to a claim on Catalan TV that he was set to join AC Milan.
He told a press conference at the Camp Nou on Friday afternoon that a move had never been an option given the injury ordeal he had been through, but he was now hopeful the worst was behind him.
"I never thought about leaving for Milan, but I did think about having to retire from football," Puyol said. "I do not know if I could go through another year like this. This injury is behind me now, I am very positive and not thinking about a recurrence. My idea is to keep working this summer to arrive at pre-season in the best shape possible, to be at 100%. [But] if the problems continue and I cannot train well, I will have to leave it."
The blaugrana centre-half, 35, said he had trained and played with various injuries since last August, and in only one game all year had he felt he was fully fit.
"Forty minutes into the second game of pre-season I felt a problem in my knee," Puyol said. "From then on I have had problems all year, the game against Atletico Madrid [in December] was the only one when I felt fine. In January the problems in my knee continued. I had intended to keep going until the end of the season but a moment came, during training, when I just could not go on."
That was the motive for the snap operation in March, which Barca were at all times informed about, Puyol said.
"I had a lot of liquid in the cyst," he said. "The surgeon told me if you have this material floating inside your knee, you cannot play, you must have an operation. The operation was supposed to take 30 minutes and it took more than two and a half hours. They found more things inside the knee."
Recovery from that procedure had been much lengthier than he had hoped, he said.
"The initial recovery time for the operation was four to six weeks, but after four to six weeks I could not even walk," he said. "The recovery process had to be a lot more conservative, now I am a lot better, I can do more things."
The long-serving defender signed a new contract just last January, which runs until June 2016. He said that he had talked to Sandro Rosell about renouncing this deal, given the seriousness of his injury problems, but the blaugrana president had persuaded him not to.
"I have said that to the president, he calmed me down," he said. "I have always said I wanted to play until I was 40, but if I am not fit enough I will have to leave it. If I do not get the rhythm back, I will go home."
The specially called press conference was the latest in a busy few days at the Camp Nou facilities, which on Thursday saw defender Eric Abidal reveal he was leaving the club this summer, and the goalkeeper Victor Valdes say on Friday morning that he may stay one more year to see out the remainder of his current Barca deal.