Veteran defender and long-time team captain Carles Puyol announced Tuesday that he will leave FC Barcelona at the end of this season.
The 35-year-old Puyol, who has never played for any other club, told reporters at Barça's training facility that he needs a period of rest after a succession of injuries and "aggressive" surgeries.
"The reason for today's press conference is to tell you that at the end of the current season I will cease to be an FC Barcelona player," he said, flanked by several teammates.
"The club is aware and we are in agreement," Puyol said. "We will rescind the contract (which runs through 2016) and leave the two remaining years void."
Puyol, with 18 goals in 593 appearances for Barça, made it clear he was not announcing his retirement, though the Spanish international implied that he will not take part in the 2014 World Cup.
Recovery from his most recent "very aggressive" knee operations has been "much harder than I thought and than what the surgeons told me," he said.
An inability to return to "the level I demand of myself to continue here" is what drove him to the decision to leave the Barça organization after 19 years, the defender said.
"I would like to say three things: I'm not leaving today, because we have three months of the season and those who know me know that I will ... battle to the end to attempt to improve, to help the team and reach the objectives of the season; I don't know what I will do June 30; what I do know is that once the season ends, I need rest," Puyol said.
"Afterward, we'll see what happens," he said.
Though he declined to take any questions Tuesday, Puyol promised to hold a farewell press conference at the end of the season.
"That day, I will answer all the questions you want," he said.
Barcelona has won 21 titles since Puyol joined the first team in 1999, including six La Liga championships and three Champions League crowns. EFE