Barcelona sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta says getting Carles Puyol back fit soon will be like having a new signing at the Camp Nou.
Puyol has been at the Catalan club for almost 20 years, and seriously considered retiring last season due to ongoing knee problems. After a difficult summer of recovery work the, defender, 35, has recently begun light training, but is not expected to play for the first team for some weeks yet.
Asked by reporters why the club had not tried harder to sign a new centre-half this summer at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, the former blaugrana goalkeeper dubbed him their "summer signing".
"With 24 hours left before the summer transfer window ended, Puyol came out to train," Zubizarreta said. "Puyol is our summer signing. His recovery is going very positively so we have included him in our considerations for the immediate future of the squad. We are working on the idea of him returning after the international break. We are reasonably optimistic. Puyol has gone through a difficult patch and that says a lot for him."
Pressed on the issue by sceptical reporters who had written all summer about Barca’s potential moves for David Luiz and Daniel Agger, the Basque repeated another previous claim. It was difficult to find the right defender for the club’s unique style of play and he had not wanted to pay over the top for the wrong player, he maintained.
"Throughout Barca’s history, centre-backs have always been difficult to sign" Zubizarreta said. "Nobody has told me that any deals could not be made for financial reasons. But whenever you try to make deals you reach a point when you feel a player is only worth so much and no more."
Paris Saint-Germain’s Thiago Silva had not wanted to join the club this summer, or last summer, Zubizarreta said.
"We tried for him two years ago, but he chose PSG," he said. "Not everyone gets up in the morning thinking Barca are the best in the world."
‘Zubi’ said the defenders already in Barca’s squad had shown last season they could cover any eventuality.
"Last year [Gerard] Pique was injured and also Puyol, and we managed the best first half of the season in history," he said. "We competed, and we adapted. Adriano [Correia] has played there, we have [Marc] Bartra, who has great potential, and [Frank] Bagnack is coming through strongly."
Barca's overall summer business -- with one major signing in Neymar for €57 million and one major departure with Thiago Alcantara leaving for Bayern Munich for €25 million -- had been satisfactory, Zubizarreta said.
"I am delighted with the squad we have," he said. "The team is competing extraordinarily well. You do not just find trophies in the museum. You have to go out and win them... This team has always wanted to get better and think we are making an effort to do that."