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FOOTBALL

Spain to vaccinate Euro 2020 team after two players test positive for Covid-19

Spain's Euro 2020 squad is to be vaccinated against Covid-19 just days before the start of the tournament, the health ministry said Wednesday after two players tested positive.

Spain to vaccinate Euro 2020 team after two players test positive for Covid-19
Photo: JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

The announcement came just hours after the team’s management said it had set up a “parallel” squad of 17 reserves who may have to play if infections spread among its players.

Health Minister Carolina Darias “will announce” this evening “that Spain’s national team will be vaccinated as is the case with all international sports professionals like those competing in the Olympics,” a spokesman told AFP.

The sudden decision came after Spain defender Diego Llorente became the second player to test positive for Covid-19 overnight, after the same happened with captain Sergio Busquets on Sunday (pictured below).

Since Sunday, Spain’s entire Euro squad has been in isolation.

In a statement on its website, the Spanish football federation (RFEF) said it was setting up a “parallel bubble” and had called in 11 players to join six backups who were already acting as cover for the coronavirus-hit first squad.

Sergio Busquets has left Spain’s pre-Euro 2020 training camp after testing positive for Covid-19. (Photo by Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP)

Spain are due to open their Euro campaign on Monday, playing Sweden in Group E in the southern city of Seville.

Sweden’s Euro 2020 squad has also been hit by infections, with two players, star forward Dejan Kulusevski and midfielder Mattias Svanberg, testing positive, its federation said Tuesday.

“The coaching staff of Spain’s national team have decided 11 internationals initially called up for the match against Lithuania will remain part of the senior national team,” it said.

The 11 newcomers were part of an Under-21 team that thumped Lithuania 4-0 on Tuesday evening in Spain’s final warm-up match.

“This group of internationals will join their teammates… within a parallel bubble, created in anticipation of the possible consequences that could result from the positives of Sergio Busquets and Diego Llorente.”

The players are Alvaro Fernandez, Oscar Mingueza, Marc Cucurella, Bryan Gil, Juan Miranda, Gonzalo Villar, Alejandro Pozo, Brahim Diaz, Martin Zubimendi, Yeremy Pino and Javi Puado.

They join six players already drafted in by coach Luis Enrique as insurance against any more positives among his squad: Rodrigo Moreno, Pablo Fornals, Carlos Soler, Brais Mendez, Raul Albiol and Kepa Arrizabalaga.

The 17 reserves in their separate bubble will have no contact with the main Euro 2020 squad.

Spain are also scheduled to play Poland and Slovakia in Group E, with all their group stage matches at the Cartuja stadium in Seville.

Spain backup squad

Alvaro Fernandez (Huesca), Oscar Mingueza (Barcelona), Marc Cucurella (Getafe), Bryan Gil (Eibar), Juan Miranda (Betis), Gonzalo Villar (Roma/ITA), Alejandro Pozo (Eibar), Brahim Diaz (AC Milan/ITA), Martin Zubimendi (Real Sociedad), Yeremy Pino (Villarreal), Javi Puado (Espanyol), Rodrigo Moreno (Leeds/ENG), Pablo Fornals (West Ham/ENG), Carlos Soler (Valencia), Brais Mendez (Celta Vigo), Raul Albiol (Villarreal), Kepa Arrizabalaga (Chelsea/ENG)

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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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