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FOOTBALL

Andres Iniesta says ’emotional’ final may be his last for Barça

Andres Iniesta hinted he may have played his last final for Barcelona after they crushed Sevilla 5-0 to win the Copa del Rey on Saturday.

Andres Iniesta says 'emotional' final may be his last for Barça
Photo: AFP

Barcelona captain Iniesta said he would reveal his future plans “this week” as the 33-year-old weighs up an offer from China that would take him away from his boyhood club. 

There was no sign of age catching up with the Spaniard at the Wanda Metropolitano where Iniesta capped a sublime performance by scoring Barça's fourth goal.

He looked tearful as he departed to a standing ovation in the second half, from some Sevilla fans too, before hoisting the Copa del Rey trophy aloft.

“This week I will make my decision public but we will always have days like today,” Iniesta said.

Asked if this was his last final with Barcelona, Iniesta added: “It's a possibility. In a few days I'll make it public and nothing more. Today is a very special and emotional day.”

The top sponsor of China club Chongqing Dangdai Lifan told the state-run Xinhua news agency Saturday he was “positive” they would sign Iniesta, who had earlier this year also been linked with fellow Chinese Super League outfit Tianjin Quanjian.

“I will say what the decision is this week,” said Iniesta. “I think it's a little clear but we will see.”

Lionel Messi scored in between a first-half double for Luis Suarez as Barcelona ran riot to secure their fourth Copa del Rey triumph in as many years. Philippe Coutinho converted a late penalty to make it 5-0.

But Iniesta was the man of the moment, his fourth goal a moment of individual brilliance after a superb shimmy left Sevilla goalkeeper David Soria helpless to save the finish.

“Today he played a match as such a high level, it seemed that he was 25 years old,” Sevilla coach Vincenzo Montella said. “It would be difficult to find another player to replace him.”

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said: “When I was a player I would have given my right arm to do what he and Messi do. It's a stroke of good luck to have him.”

This was the sixth time Iniesta has won the Copa del Rey, adding another trophy to a remarkable collection that already includes eight La Liga titles, three Champions League crowns and a World Cup.

He will win a ninth La Liga title if Barcelona beat Deportivo La Coruna next weekend.

“It was a great night in all ways, on a collective and personal level,” Iniesta said. “We will try to add the League to leave a good taste in people's mouths. It is a day of many emotions and I am very happy.”

Barça defender Jordi Alba said: “It has been and is a pleasure to share a changing room with him today, he is number one in his position and as person.

“The decision that he takes should be respected because he deserves it. But the day Iniesta leaves is the day we will all cry. We will miss him.”

READ ALSO: 'You claim we're signing Barça's Iniesta and we'll sue': Chinese club

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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