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FOOTBALL

Ex-Barça president arrested in money laundering probe

Former Barcelona president Sandro Rosell was arrested on Tuesday in a money laundering investigation related to image rights in the Brazilian national football team, a police spokesman told AFP.

Ex-Barça president arrested in money laundering probe
This file photo taken on July 22, 2014 shows former President of football club Barcelona Sandro Rosell arriving at Madrid's National Court. Photo: AFP

The police operation was mainly carried out in the northeastern region of Catalonia and for the moment “there are four or five detainees, including the former president of Barça, Sandro Rosell, and his wife,” the police spokesman said.

The investigation focuses on “money laundering in companies linked to the image rights of the Brazilian football team,” police added.   

Officers were searching the homes of those arrested as part of the operation as well as at several company headquarters in Barcelona, Girona and Lleida in Catalonia and in Andorra, a tiny principality wedged between Spain and France, police said.

Businessman Rosell, 53, was manager of sporting goods giants Nike in Brazil and oversaw the contract for the national team to wear the US brand, before taking over as president of Barcelona in 2010.

He resigned as Barcelona president in 2014 after being charged over alleged tax fraud relating to the club's signing of Brazil striker Neymar from Santos. He was later cleared of all charges in connection with the case following an agreement with prosecutors.

READ ALSO: Spanish court orders Neymar to stand trial for corruption

Rosell will nevertheless be tried for fraud and corruption relating to a parallel complaint filed by Brazilian investment company DIS, which owned 40 percent of Neymar's sporting rights at the time of his transfer.

DIS claim it was cheated out of its real share because part of the transfer fee was concealed by Barcelona, Santos and the Neymar family.  

 A Spanish court earlier this month ordered Neymar and his parents to stand trial for alleged “business corruption” over the affair, making him the latest star from the Catalan club to have to take the stand.

Five-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi and his father were given 21-month suspended jail sentences in July 2016 for tax fraud relating to the player's image rights.

Barça's Argentine defender Javier Mascherano also agreed a one-year suspended sentence with authorities for tax fraud earlier this year. 

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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