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Zinédine Zidane set to make shock return as Real Madrid manager

French football legend Zinedine Zidane will make a shock return as Real Madrid manager, it was revealed on Monday.

Zinédine Zidane set to make shock return as Real Madrid manager

Zidane, or Zizou as he is known will take over from Santiago Solari, who has been under pressure after his team were dumped out of the Champions League at home to Ajax last week.

Solari was set to be sacked on Monday evening according to reports.

READ ALSO:  Real Madrid reward Solari with permanent contract

The move has come as a huge shock to the world of football on Monday.

Zidane had apparently been approached by Real president Florentino Pérez on Friday but had requested to be given the weekend to mull over a return to the club he graced as a player and a manager.

Madrid president Florentino Perez has reportedly met with the board and resolved to dismiss Solari, with Zidane set to be his replacement, nine months after the he resigned at the end of last season.

Zidane could take training as early as Tuesday and be in charge for Madrid's La Liga game at home to Celta Vigo on Saturday.    

His priority will be to secure Madrid's place in the top four after a turbulent fortnight that has seen them lose twice to Barcelona and knocked out by Ajax in the Champions League.

Zidane won that tournament in each of his three seasons in charge at the Santiago Bernabeu, as well as La Liga in 2016-17, while enjoying a strong relationship with the majority of the players.

Gareth Bale was one of the few not to see eye-to-eye with the Frenchman and Bale's future will become even more uncertain, should Zidane's appointment be confirmed.

Sergio Ramos had said earlier on Monday he accepts blame for the club's “deeply disappointing” season but insists the players have no say on the coaching situation.

Ramos posed a series of questions to himself on social media after Madrid had beaten Real Valladolid 4-1 in La Liga on Sunday night.   

“As footballers we like to do our talking on the pitch but this season is not turning out that way,” Ramos wrote.   

“Recent events have been disastrous and I'm not hiding. We are not hiding. We the players are primarily responsible and I, as captain, more than anyone.”   

On Solari's position, Ramos said: “It's a decision that's not ours to make and in which we never interfere. We have enormous respect for the position and we always support the Real Madrid coach.

“These reflections are, without doubt, the result of a deeply disappointing season but if success didn't stop us, we're not going to let defeat stop us. It's our obligation to carry on, to work and to evolve.

 

READ MORE: France's Zinédine Zidane quits as Real Madrid manager

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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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