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IN PICS: Returning Real Madrid welcomed as living ‘legends’

Thousands of delirious Real Madrid fans poured onto the streets of the Spanish capital to catch a glimpse of Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates on Sunday as they paraded the Champions League trophy for a record 12th time.

IN PICS: Returning Real Madrid welcomed as living 'legends'
Real Madrid have won the Champions League for the third time in four years. Photos: AFP

Ronaldo sported a newly cropped haircut and he and captain Sergio Ramos led the traditional festivities for a major Real celebration as the players greeted local government dignitaries before parading the famous trophy in an open top bus around the Cibeles fountain in the city centre.   

READ ALSO: Ronaldo heroics spark Madrid street party

From there the squad headed to the club's Santiago Bernabeu where a capacity 81,000 fans are expected for further celebrations, including a lights show and firework display.

Strict security measures were visible across the city in light of recent terror attacks in London and Manchester.   

Ronaldo scored twice in Real's 4-1 thrashing of Juventus in Cardiff on Saturday as the Spanish giants became the first side to retain the Champions League.

“The players have entered into the legend of Real Madrid and of football, as has our coach,” said club president Florentino Perez, as he reserved special praise for Zinedine Zidane.

The Frenchman, who himself won the Champions League as a legendary player for Real between 2001 and 2006, has enjoyed spectacular success since taking his first role in senior management just 18 months ago.   

As well as winning back-to-back Champions Leagues, Madrid also beat Barcelona to La Liga two weeks ago to complete a first league and European Cup double for 59 years.

A third Champions League win in four years has drawn comparisons to the great Real side that won the first five editions of the European Cup between 1955 and 1960.

“I feel like this is the best team in history,” one fan Alvaro Mora, who had travelled over 500 kilometres from the southern city of Almeria to take in the celebrations, told AFP.

And like Real's performance on the pitch at the Principality Stadium as they tore the Italian champions apart with goals from Casemiro and Marco Asensio adding to Ronaldo's double, there was no sign of the Madrid fans' tiring of success.

“It is the best thing that could happen,” said Colombian shop worker Jose Ordonez, 54, who took in the festivities with his two sons.    

“We promised to return and we have returned as champions,” said Ramos as the squad visited the home of Madrid's local government and the city hall.    

“I hope to return many more times and that we can celebrate many more titles.”

By Diego Urdaneta and Kieran Canning / AFP

READ MORE: In pics: Celebrations as Real Madrid win La Liga title

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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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