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FOOTBALL

Bale and Varane to travel to Club World Cup: Zidane

Gareth Bale and France international Raphaël Varane will travel with the Real Madrid squad to the Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, coach Zinedine Zidane said on Friday.

Bale and Varane to travel to Club World Cup: Zidane
Gareth Bale and Raphaël Varane. Photo: AFP

Zidane made the announcement after injury-plagued Bale returned to training on Friday morning, but despite being available for the Club World Cup, which started on Wednesday with host club Al Jazira's 1-0 win over New Zealanders Auckland City, both the Wales winger and Varane will miss Saturday's visit of Sevilla in La Liga.

Bale has yet another calf injury and Varane is suffering from a muscle problem.

“Bale won't be available tomorrow (Saturday) but the idea is that he will travel with us to the Club World Cup and will see if he can play in the first match,” said Zidane.

Real will begin their tournament campaign as strong favourites against one of Al Jazira and Japan's Uwara Reds in their semi-final on December 13th.

Centre-back Varane limped off in the 38th minute of Real's 3-2 Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday, and his time on the sidelines comes as Zidane has to deal with a defensive crisis ahead of Sevilla.

Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal and defensive midfielder Casemiro are all suspended and youngster Cesar Vallejo is also injured.

However Zidane is confident that 24-year-old Varane will recover in time to play in the UAE.

“Rapha's injury is not serious. He won't be with us tomorrow but he underwent an MRI scan and nothing big came up,” he said.

“He will come with us to the tournament and we'll see if he can play in the next match.”

READ ALSO: Real Madrid legend Fernando Hierro returns to Spanish FA

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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