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FOOTBALL

Ballack unlikely to play again in 2010

Germany captain Michael Ballack is not expected to play football again in 2010 after it was revealed on Wednesday his knee injury is worse than first thought.

Ballack unlikely to play again in 2010
Photo: DPA

The 34-year-old fractured the tibia just below his left knee in a Bundesliga match against Hannover last month, but a further examination has revealed more bad news.

The defensive midfielder now needs to wear a protective cast for the next four to six weeks to allow the injury to heal.

“The injury is more serious than thought and as a result Michael will be unavailable until the end of the year,” said his club Bayer Leverkusen in a statement.

Ballack picked up the injury on only his third game back after damaging ligaments in his right ankle last May which kept him out of the World Cup finals.

Having spent four years at Chelsea, Ballack returned to the German league this season with Leverkusen, but the latest set-back is a blow to both his club coach Jupp Heynckes and national trainer Joachim Löw.

“This development is very unfortunate. But I hope that Michael Ballack will return stronger after his rehab and we can focus on his return for the second half of the season,” said Heynckes.

With 98 caps to his name, Ballack has already missed Germany’s first two Euro 2012 qualifiers and sits out Friday’s game against Turkey in Berlin and next Tuesday’s match against Kazakhstan in Astana.

Ballack will also miss Germany’s friendly against Sweden in Gothenburg on November 17, but Germany team manager Oliver Bierhoff urged the captain ‘not to worry’ about his latest setback and says he will come back stronger.

“Of course, it is another setback both for Michael and especially for Bayer Leverkusen,” said Bierhoff at a press conference in Berlin. “He will get a longer break now. That will be good for him. Then he can attack again with renewed energy.”

AFP/ka

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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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