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FOOTBALL

Schalke boss backs beleaguered Magath

Schalke 04's chairman Clemens Tönnies said on Tuesday he has every confidence in manager Felix Magath, despite the Royal Blues suffering their worst start to the Bundesliga in the club's history.

Schalke boss backs beleaguered Magath
Photo: DPA

Schalke were beaten 3-1 at home by arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund last Sunday, leaving them without a point at the bottom of the league after four straight defeats, and Magath has admitted his squad is lacking confidence.

The Royal Blues face Freiburg in the Bundesliga on Wednesday, then Borussia Mönchengladbach on Saturday before taking on Benfica on September 29 in the

Champions League, and badly need a moral-boosting win.

Despite signing Spain veteran Raul and Holland’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Schalke are struggling for form and have lost their last five games including the 1-0 defeat at Lyon in the Champions League.

Magath is both team manager and trainer at Schalke and has previously won the German league title with both Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg.

He is coming under increasing pressure in his second season at the Gelsenkirchen club, but has Tönnies’s backing.

“I do not doubt the quality of the coach,” Tönnies, the chairman of Schalke’s board, told news agency SID.

Magath has made sweeping changes at Schalke, but Tönnies insists the new team needs time to gel.

“Of course, I believe in the team. We are not plotting a zig-zag course and we have set out to establish a new side. A revolution will take time. It is a serious situation, but not a crisis. (It is a false start) that we will now correct.”

If the slump continues, Schalke will have problems securing a top three finish this season and securing their place in next season’s Champions League, but Tönnies said he was unconcerned.

“The world won’t fall apart, nothing will change for Schalke,” he said.

Magath has admitted losing to Ruhr Valley rivals Dortmund was “unpleasant and distressing” last Sunday, especially after the home fans booed their side at Schalke’s Veltins Arena.

“We have to get out of the uncertainty,” said Magath.

“There was no alternative (to the upheavel in the team) if Schalke want to be champions in the coming years.”

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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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