Barcelona captain Carles Puyol is still hoping to reach 100 appearances for Spain despite acknowledging he is almost certain to miss this summer’s European Championship due to a knee problem.
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Barca announced on Tuesday that Puyol will undergo an arthroscopy on May 12 after feeling discomfort in his right knee following Saturday’s 4-0 defeat of Espanyol – and that is set to sideline the centre-back for around six weeks.
That means the 34-year-old is definitely out of Barca’s final Primera Division game at Real Betis at the weekend and he will also miss coach Pep Guardiola’s last game in charge – the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao on May 25.
His participation at Euro 2012 is also extremely doubtful with Spain opening their campaign against Italy on June 10 before going on to play the Republic of Ireland and Croatia in Group C.
However, while he admits it is highly unlikely he will be going to the Euros, Puyol, who has earned 99 caps for Spain and helped his country win Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup, is not ready to hang up his international boots.
He said: "My plan right now is only to undergo the operation and recover as soon as possible. I’m sure that things are going to turn out well and very soon I will be back playing again.
"I don’t know if it was my last European Championship but I do know that I want to retire on the pitch and not on the operating table.
"I’m only thinking about recovering and returning to 100%. If then I can return to play with the national team I would love to reach that number (100 caps)."
Asked about the possibility of him going to Ukraine and Poland as part of Vicente Del Bosque’s squad this summer, Puyol added: "I would love to but it looks very difficult. I have to wait and see what the doctors find, but I think that it’s impossible.
"There will be players in better condition than me to play.
"Those who are best are the ones who have to go. It would be unfair on the other players. In Spain there are good centre-backs and we don’t have to worry about anything."
On the prospect of missing both the Copa del Rey final and Euro 2012, Puyol said: "It’s frustrating to miss these two competitions. The cup final is the nicest game of the year because of the atmosphere.
"If this had happened when I was younger it would’ve been worse but I see things in a different way now I’m 34. I hope to help from off the pitch and enjoy this final."
Del Bosque will announce his provisional squad for Euro 2012 on May 15 which will then be whittled down when the final 23-man party is confirmed on May 27.