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FOOTBALL

Ballack determined to play for Germany despite broken knee cap

Germany captain Michael Ballack has said he will fight to win back his place in the national side, despite being left out of the squads for the last two Euro 2012 qualifiers and picking up a new injury on Saturday.

Ballack determined to play for Germany despite broken knee cap
Photo: DPA

The 33-year-old missed the World Cup with an ankle injury and sat out this month’s Group A wins over Belgium and Azerbaijan as he recovers his fitness.

The midfielder injured his knee in Leverkusen’s 2-2 draw at Hannover on Saturday, and on Sunday it was announced that he had actually fractured his left knee cap.

He limped off the pitch after a heavy tackle and underwent an MRI scan on Sunday morning which revealed the damage.

Before the match he had told German television channel ZDF he would fight to win back his place for October’s qualifiers against Turkey and Kazakhstan.

“I will do what I have always done,” he said and insisted there was no need to “make any drama” out of his new injury.

But he appeared bitter after his 30 minutes on the pitch for his new team. “After what has happened in the last few weeks, nothing can surprise me any more,” he said. “In football sometimes strange things happen quickly.”

National coach Joachim Löw has said he would select Ballack again as captain only when he has proved his fitness and form.

He was less than effusive over the weekend when asked about a Ballack return to the national team. “If I am of the opinion that he will strengthen the team, then of course. But now it is naturally important that he finds his form.”

Ballack said he was pleased by statements by some of the national team members, particularly Bastian Schweinsteiger. “They can obviously remember something of my abilities before my injury. That is good to hear, but also somehow normal,” said Ballack.

“It shows me that we went through thick and thin together, that many players are also sticking by me.”

Despite having 98 caps under his belt, Ballack’s status within the squad has dropped in the wake of Germany’s third place finish in South Africa.

“The last few weeks of course were not easy for me. They have shown me how things are,” said the former Chelsea star, who is back in the Bundesliga after his contract was not extended after four years in London.

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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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