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Mar 7, 2014

Henry would welcome Puyol to MLS

Thierry Henry would welcome Carles Puyol at New York Red Bulls if the Barcelona centre-back decides to move to MLS when he leaves Barcelona at the end of the season.

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Puyol, 35, this week announced that he would not continue at the Camp Nou past June, as years of knee problems meant he could no longer play at the level required at Barca, while leaving open the possibility he might extend his career elsewhere for a few more years.

This has led to speculation that the 2010 World Cup-winner could move to the MLS, and his former Blaugrana teammate told Catalan publication Ara that such a great defender would be welcome in the U.S.

"If he wants to come to play in the United States he should come, he would be welcome," Henry said. "I cannot say more about the subject, because I have not spoken to him about it.

"If Puyol comes, much better, it would be good for this league, because it is always good to have great players like him. I played with him for three years and he was an incredible captain, a great example and one of the best defenders in history."

Reaction to the news has continued back in Catalonia, with Barca attacker Lionel Messi telling his Mundo Leo online TV channel that, although Puyol would be missed, he understood that the call had to be made.

"It’s a decision that he’s probably thought a lot about, because it’s not easy to make," Messi said. "If he has said it, it’s because he’s totally convinced and sure about it. He'll be sorely missed, both inside and outside the dressing room. We wish him the very best in whatever he wants to do. Whether he goes to play somewhere else or wants to do something different, I hope it goes really well. He deserves it, he’s a fabulous person."

Puyol’s young defensive colleague Marc Bartra, 23, told a news conference before Barcelona training on Thursday evening that the realisation had yet to dawn that the club captain's 14 years in the first team dressing room were almost over.

"It’s sad news for us all," Bartra said. "For the team because we’ve lost our leader, he’s a captain from head to toe. And personally because he gave me so much advice and helped me progress in the game. We haven’t taken in the idea that he won’t be with us next season. But there are still three months left and we have to be optimistic and learn as much as we can from him in that time."

Bartra, who recently agreed a new contract extension tying him to the club until June 2017, said he was not concerned about the club possibly purchasing a new experienced centre-back to replace Puyol in the summer.

"I would rather think about that at the end of the season," Bartra said. "We still have four centre-backs at the moment. If somebody new comes I’ll learn from him, while I have to keep proving that I can play at centre-back here."

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