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FOOTBALL

‘You will be the star that guides our family’: Ex-Spain coach Luis Enrique loses 9-year-old daughter to cancer

Former Spain coach Luis Enrique announced the death of his nine-year-old daughter from bone cancer on Thursday.

'You will be the star that guides our family': Ex-Spain coach Luis Enrique loses 9-year-old daughter to cancer
Luis Enrique pictured with his daughter Xana in 2015. Photo: AFP

“Our daughter Xana passed away this afternoon at nine years old, after fighting for five intense months against osteosarcoma,” Luis Enrique tweeted.   

“You will be the star that guides our family,” he wrote.

“We will miss you enormously but we will remember you every day of our lives,” he added.

Luis Enrique resigned as national coach in June “due to the reasons which had prevented me from fulfilling my duties as normal since last March” he said at the time.

His personal issue was never made public, until now.   


Father and daughter celebrating Barça's Copa del Rey win in 2017. Photo: AFP

Assistant Robert Moreno has been in charge for Spain's last three matches and will now lead the team through Euro 2020 qualifying and the final tournament, in what is his first job as a professional coach.

In his poignant Twitter post, Luis Enrique thanked all the messages of support “received during these months”.

Prominent figures in football were quick to send Enrique their condolences, with his former Spain captain Sergio Ramos posting on Twitter: 

“All our support and love for you and your family. There are no words, but you always have us by your side.” 

 The president of the Spanish football federation Luis Rubiales sent a message to his former coach: “Always by your side, next to (Enrique's wife) Elena and your whole family.”

La Liga giants Barcelona and Real Madrid also posted their condolences on social media, while the reaction to the sad news crossed into other sports.   

“I just learned the terrible news of Xana's death. I am very sad and can't even imagine the pain of the family,” wrote tennis player Rafael Nadal, who is currently at the US Open in New York.

“A huge hug to Luis Enrique and the whole family from a distance. A lot of strength and encouragement in these hard times.”

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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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