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FOOTBALL

Zlatan invokes Tiger Woods in new rebuke of former coach

Swedish footballer and AC Milan star Zlatan Ibrahimovic has leveled a new attack against his former coach at Barcelona, comparing him to disgraced golfer Tiger Woods.

Zlatan invokes Tiger Woods in new rebuke of former coach
Ibrahimovic and Marcus Allbäck train for Euro qualifier against the Netherlands

The Sweden forward, who spent just one year in Spain, told Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport: “Guardiola wants to appear perfect in public. Tiger Woods is the same. But no one is perfect.”

He also took aim at what he believed was Guardiola’s inexperience.

“He’s a great manager but with little experience, and still too young to manage a team with 22 stars with different personalities.”

Guardiola guided Barcelona to six trophies in 2009 but Ibrahimovic commented: “It’s not difficult to win at Barcelona. With such a team, who couldn’t win?”

He had more favourable words for Jose Mourinho, his coach at Inter in 2008-09, and who he will cross swords with again on Tuesday when AC Milan face Real Madrid in the Champions League.

“‘Mou’ motivated me, he’s a winner…Mourinho comes, he wins, then says goodbye and thank you.”

This is not the first time Ibrahimovic has taken Guardiola to task.

Last month the 28-year-old striker dismissed his former Barca manager as “a small time” coach.

“In my book, a great coach solves his problems. A small-time coach runs from them,” Ibrahimovic told a press conference in Stockholm.

“There was only one person (on the Barcelona team) who wanted to get rid of me,” he insisted, explaining why he left the team and signed for AC Milan on an initial one-year loan with a pre-arranged 24-million-euro permanent deal arranged for the end of the season.

While Guardiola has declined to respond in public Barcelona president Sandro Rosell labeled Ibrahimovic’s purchase from Inter as the worst financial mistake in the club’s history.

“It’s Barca’s worst transaction, but I think that we sold quite well, having bought badly,” he said on Sunday.

Ibrahimovic joined Barca from Inter in the summer of 2009 for a club-record fee of €46 million ($64 million), with Cameroonian striker Eto’o — valued at €20 million — moving in the opposite direction as part of the deal.

The Swede helped Barca win the league title last season but failed to fit into Guardiola’s playing strategy.

He joined AC Milan this summer on an initial loan deal with a €24 million purchase clause, to be paid in three installments of eight million euros over the next three years.

Barca’s general director, Antoni Rossich, said Ibrahimovic’s departure represented a loss of €33.4 million for the club.

Ibrahimovic’s AC Milan take on Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Golf star Tiger Woods’ perfect image was shattered last year following revelations of a series of extra-marital affairs.

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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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