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Barcelona celebrates Champions League win

Fans crowded into the streets of Catalan capital to celebrate Barcelona's fifth Champions League win with a victory parade on Sunday night.

Barcelona celebrates Champions League win
A fan celebrates Saturday's Champions League win. Photo: Josep Lago / AFP
“Champions, second treble, we continue to write history” was the triumphant message written on the side of the coach ferrying Luis Suarez, who scored the decisive goal in the 3-1 defeat of Juventus, Lionel Messi, and the rest of the team to the Camp Nou where a crowd of 67,000 were awaiting them.
 
“The treble of 2009 was magic because it was the first. But to do it twice, that's enormous,” said one fan, Adrian Llamazares referring to Saturday's trophy in Berlin coming after the Liga and Cup titles.
 
“I was confident from the start of the season,” chipped in Sara Marco with her grand-daughter enthusiastically waving a Catalan flag.
But the sixty-something grandmother was perhaps the only one to have had belief at the start of January when Barcelona suffered a major internal crisis with frosty relations between coach Luis Enrique and Messi.
 
But then the Catalan giants pressed hard on the accelerator to become a winning machine after a 2013-14 trophyless season had hinted at their decline.
 
“We were speaking of the end of a cycle, but the cycle is Messi, regardless of the manager and the rest of the players, Barcelona can always win,” suggested 41-year-old David Blasco.
 
With fans shouting out the name of their idols, and tourists joining in the party atmosphere the team made its smiling way to their iconic stadium, dancing and singing in the open top bus.
 
“Where's Messi?” a six-year-old boy asked his mother, Nuria Boada.  
 
“In our house, our hero is Messi, because he's the best in the world. He does incredible things, almost without blinking,” the 39-year-old Boada said.
 
“But we also want to say goodbye to Xavi,” she added quickly, in reference to the record-breaking Barca captain who is leaving the club to join Qatari side Al Sadd.
 
Xavi's name, along with Messi, Suarez and the third member of the strikeforce Neymar, were the names that rang out most.
 
“As long as the three forwards score Barcelona can play as they wish. And next season, they will bring us back the sixth (European crown)!” predicted 27-year-old Eduard Corcelles.

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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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