Puyol refuses retirement despite Euro 2012 absence

But the 34-year-old Barcelona captain, whose header against Germany famously took Spain into the final of a victorious 2010 World Cup campaign, said on Wednesday he is not ready to end his international career and expects to undergo the operation on Saturday.

Asked if he could still join the Euro squad, he told a news conference: “It would be very difficult. Those who are fittest have to go. It would be unfair to take a player who is not at 100%.”

Puyol said he would have to wait to see how the operation goes: “But I think it is impossible.”

The long-haired defender is to undergo a knee arthroscopy, in which a tiny camera is inserted through small incisions and damaged tissue can be repaired or removed.
He faces a six-week recovery.

<strong>No end in sight</strong>
Spain’s coach Vicente del Bosque has said he will release a provisional line-up on May 15 for the team going to Poland and Ukraine and a definitive list on May 27.

Spain, who are defending their European title, play their first game on June 10 against Italy.

Puyol, who has 99 caps for Spain, does not seem ready to end his playing days with the national squad.

“My plan is to carry on for many more years. But you have to take it season by season. We will see how I am at the start of the next season. But I am convinced I will come back fine, perfectly fit,” he said.

Puyol could not say whether the Euro 2008 campaign was his last in the competition.

“I don’t now if it was my last European Championship. But I want to retire on the field and not in the operating room,” he added.

“On Saturday I will go into the operating theatre and on Sunday I will start working on my recovery.”

<strong>Getting back</strong>
Asked about his ambition to earn a 100th cap for Spain, Puyol said: “For now the only thing I am thinking about is getting back to 100%, and then if there is a chance to play the 100th game, I would be delighted.”

The knee surgery means Puyol will also miss the final of the domestic King’s Cup competition on May 25, when Barcelona face Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish capital’s Vicente Calderon stadium.

His absence will be keenly felt in the Spain squad, already hit by doubts over Puyol’s Barcelona team-mate, striker David Villa, who broke his leg December 15 in Barcelona’s Club World Cup semifinal win over al-Sadd.

While Del Bosque said on Friday he would keep a spot open for the 30-year-old Villa until the last moment to see if he recovers in time, the Spaniard said Tuesday Villa’s lack of match time, even if fit, would pose a problem.

“He is giving his all and recovering quickly, but he still has not played,” Del Bosque said in comments broadcast on Cadena Ser radio.

“We are on tenterhooks. We are worried because, of course, it is difficult for us to take someone who has not played one game.”

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola has said Villa’s recovery is going “very well” and that he hopes the striker, dubbed King David for his 51 goals in 82 internationals, will be able to join the Euro 2012 squad. &mdash; AFP

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