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FOOTBALL

Real Madrid given green light for stadium makeover

Madrid's city hall on Wednesday gave the green light to a multi-million-euro revamp of Real Madrid's mythical Santiago Bernabeu stadium after courts blocked an initial, more ambitious project.

Real Madrid given green light for stadium makeover
The Real Madrid stadium is set for a makeover. Photo: AFP

The 81,000-capacity venue will be fitted with a retractable roof and will also include room for a shopping centre and possibly a hotel, all of which is to be enveloped inside a metallic, undulating facade.

A mall that is currently adjacent to the stadium will be knocked down and replaced by a large public garden.

READ MORE: Real Madrid relaunch bid for stadium revamp

Photo: AFP

The city hall tweeted that its executive council had approved the project, which will be financed by Abu Dhabi-based sponsor IPIC, who will be given naming rights.

The original plan involved enlarging the stadium plot onto public land to build a hotel and shopping centre.

But it was blocked by Madrid's High Court in 2015 on the grounds that the European Commission was investigating the club over an alleged overpriced land transfer between Real Madrid and the city.

In July 2016, the Commission found that the transfer had indeed been overvalued and constituted illegal state aid.

That autumn, the club returned a total of €20.3 million ($23 million) to Madrid city council over the land deal and tax breaks the EU said were giving it unfair advantages.

In the new project, which was unveiled around the same time, the shopping centre will now be included within the existing stadium.   

It is still unclear whether it will also feature a hotel.    

The original structure was inaugurated in 1947 before being renamed in 1955 after former club president Santiago Bernabeu, who died in 1978.   

It has already undergone several makeovers since the 1982 World Cup in Spain.

Real's great domestic rivals Barcelona have also announced plans to remodel their Camp Nou ground.

Real's cross-city rivals Atletico Madrid are for their part due to move to a new 70,000-seat stadium this year, leaving behind the 55,000-capacity Vicente Calderon stadium, which is set to be demolished and turned into a park and housing.

READ ALSO: Mixed emotions as Atletico bid adios to Vicente Calderón


Fans wave flags and scarves during a celebration bidding farewell to the team's stadium. Photo: AFP

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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