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FOOTBALL

Barca reject calls for change after title triumph

Barcelona president Sandro Rosell has hailed the club's players after they sealed their fourth La Liga title in five years on Saturday night.

Barca reject calls for change after title triumph
Barcelona players congratulate Lionel Messi. Photo: Josep Lago/AFP

The Catalans didn't even need to step foot on the pitch to mathematically secure their 22nd league championship as Real Madrid's 1-1 draw with Espanyol left Los Blancos seven points adrift of Barca with just two games remaining.

"It has been special," Rosell told Barca TV. "It was a league that has taken a long time but what defines it is the merit it has for all the things that have happened, all the barriers and complications they have overcome. I like to win the league in any way, however it arrives."

"I know there are people that could be left somewhat disappointed after the elimination from the Champions League. We will try to do better next year, but it already has merit to be the best in the Spain and in the semi-finals in Europe."

Rosell was quick to highlight to emotional strain that the club has gone through this season due to serious illnesses suffered by defender Eric Abidal and manager Tito Vilanova and dedicated the title to them in particular.

"The reappearance of Abidal was spectacular, this is the moment of the league for me. Tito and Abidal are the two names that, if there was space to put the name of someone on the trophy, it would be theirs."

Sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta also heaped praise upon the Barca squad and bit back at those who have claimed that, following their thrashing at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League, this side has come to the end of an era.

"They spoke about the end of an era but we have returned to win the principal title, the one of consistency," he told the club's website.

"The squad have been capable to maintain the speed of the ship with an incredible capacity to compete."

Zubizarreta also insisted that despite their problems towards the end of the campaign, there wouldn't be major changes over the close season.

"We need to be clear where we have come from. We have been faithful to a style and Tito has accepted the goal to maintain it. We have tried to do so in the best way we know possible. We are faithful to this style despite that sometimes it won't be sufficient to win, like the day against Bayern."

"We need to keep evolving this basic idea according to what the coaches believe is the most opportune thing to do and this is how we will prepare next season."

"If we look at our squad, 80% of the players that would interest us are already part of Barcelona. As always, we will analyse everything that we can alter but the base is solid and we already have that."

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FOOTBALL

Putellas becomes second Spanish footballer in history to win Ballon d’Or

Alexia Putellas of Barcelona and Spain won the women's Ballon d'Or prize on Monday, becoming only the second Spanish-born footballer in history to be considered the best in the world, and claiming a win for Spain after a 61-year wait.

FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award.
FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award. Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Putellas is the third winner of the prize, following in the footsteps of Ada Hegerberg, who won the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, and United States World Cup star Megan Rapinoe, winner in 2019.

Putellas captained Barcelona to victory in this year’s Champions League, scoring a penalty in the final as her side hammered Chelsea 4-0 in Gothenburg.

She also won a Spanish league and cup double with Barca, the club she joined as a teenager in 2012, and helped her country qualify for the upcoming Women’s Euro in England.

Her Barcelona and Spain teammate Jennifer Hermoso finished second in the voting, with Sam Kerr of Chelsea and Australia coming in third.

It completes an awards double for Putellas, who in August was named player of the year by European football’s governing body UEFA.

But it’s also a huge win for Spain as it’s the first time in 61 years that a Spanish footballer – male or female – is crowned the world’s best footballer of the year, and only the second time in history a Spaniard wins the Ballon d’Or. 

Former Spanish midfielder Luis Suárez (not the ex Liverpool and Barça player now at Atlético) was the only Spanish-born footballer to win the award in 1960 while at Inter Milan. Argentinian-born Alfredo Di Stefano, the Real Madrid star who took up Spanish citizenship, also won it in 1959.

Who is Alexia Putellas?

Alexia Putellas grew up dreaming of playing for Barcelona and after clinching the treble of league, cup and Champions League last season, her status as a women’s footballing icon was underlined as she claimed the Ballon d’Or on Monday.

Unlike the men’s side, Barca’s women swept the board last term with the 27-year-old, who wears “Alexia” on the back of her shirt, at the forefront, months before Lionel Messi’s emotional departure.

Attacker Putellas, who turns 28 in February, spent her childhood less than an hour’s car journey from the Camp Nou and she made her first trip to the ground from her hometown of Mollet del Valles, for the Barcelona derby on January 6, 2000.

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas (R) vies with VfL Wolfsburg's German defender Kathrin Hendrich
Putellas plays as a striker for Barça and Spain. GABRIEL BOUYS / POOL / AFP

Exactly 21 years later she became the first woman in the modern era to score in the stadium, against Espanyol. Her name was engraved in the club’s history from that day forward, but her story started much earlier.

She started playing the sport in school, against boys.

“My mum had enough of me coming home with bruises on my legs, so she signed me up at a club so that I stopped playing during break-time,” Putellas said last year.

So, with her parent’s insistence, she joined Sabadell before being signed by Barca’s academy.

“That’s where things got serious… But you couldn’t envisage, with all one’s power, to make a living from football,” she said.

After less than a year with “her” outfit, she moved across town to Espanyol and made her first-team debut in 2010 before losing to Barca in the final of the Copa de la Reina.

She then headed south for a season at Valencia-based club Levante before returning “home” in July 2012, signing for Barcelona just two months after her father’s death.

In her first term there she helped Barca win the league and cup double, winning the award for player of the match in the final of the latter competition.

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