Puyol says playing at Euro 2012 is ‘impossible’

Barcelona defender Carles Puyol believes it will be

”impossible” to recover from knee surgery in time to help Spain

defend its European Championship title next month.

Puyol will undergo surgery on his right knee Saturday and is

expected to be sidelined for six weeks. The 34-year-old center back

will miss Barcelona’s Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao on

May 25 and looks set to be left out of Euro 2012, which starts on

June 8.

But Puyol refused to rule out adding to his 99 appearances for

the World Cup champions.

”The only idea in my mind is to have the surgery and recover as

quickly as possible. I’m sure everything will turn out well and

I’ll be back playing again soon,” Puyol said on Wednesday. ”I’m

not sure if this will be my last Euros but what I’m sure of is that

I want to retire on the field, not in the operating room.”

Puyol said he would make a decision on his international future

next season.

”This is like bringing your car in for a checkup,” Puyol said.

”But I think it’s impossible that I recover in time.”

Coach Vicente del Bosque said Puyol’s absence will be difficult

to cover.

”He’s one of our captains, one of the team’s leaders. ‘Puyi’ is

a titan and with his absence, Spain loses a piece of its soul,”

Del Bosque said.

Puyol has played in all major championships since the 2002 World

Cup, having made his debut in 2000. His absence deals another blow

to the defending champions’ squad, with striker David Villa also in

doubt. Spain’s all-time leading scorer has yet to play since

undergoing leg surgery in December.

Del Bosque will have to find a new partner for Barcelona center

back Gerard Pique in the middle of Spain’s defense, with Real

Madrid’s Sergio Ramos the most likely substitute. Athletic Bilbao’s

Javi Martinez is another option.

Spain opens Group C against Italy on June 10 before playing

Ireland and Croatia during the June 8-July 1 tournament in Poland

and Ukraine.

Del Bosque will announce his 23-man squad for the tournament on

May 27.