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FOOTBALL

Ballack left out of squad – again

Michael Ballack's international exile continues after he was left out of the 23-man Germany squad announced Thursday for the friendly against Uruguay and next month's Euro 2012 qualifiers.

Ballack left out of squad - again
Photo: DPA

The 34-year-old has not now played for Germany since March 2010 after suffering back-to-back injuries last year, and he has struggled to get a regular place in the Bayer Leverkusen team since making his return in January.

He has been left out of the Germany squad to face Uruguay on May 29 in Sinsheim before the Group A leaders take on Austria, on June 3, and Azerbaijan, on June 7, in Vienna and Baku respectively, in Euro 2012 qualifiers.

“Michael has not been nominated for the next three internationals,” confirmed coach Joachim Löw in a statement. “The decision has been discussed with him.

“In the past few weeks, we have been in constant contact and we met in person at the end of March.”

According to reports in the German media, ex-captain Ballack is set to win his 99th – and final – cap against Brazil in a friendly in Stuttgart on August 10, which would double as his farewell.

In his absence, Ballack’s Leverkusen team-mate Simon Rolfes is back in the squad after more than 18 months away from international football following a knee injury.

Löw has called up 21-year-old midfielder Marco Reus from Borussia Mönchengladbach while Real Madrid’s Sami Khedira has been included despite picking up a leg injury.

“Marco has been developing well and is a good prospect,” said Löw.

“In recent weeks he has played very well in the Bundesliga and has been extremely dangerous.”

The friendly against the South Americans at the end of the month will be a rematch of the third place play-off at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, which the Germans won 3-2.

Having won all five of their Euro 2012 qualifiers, Germany are five points clear at the top of Group A and on course to qualify for the four-week long tournament to be held in Poland and the Ukraine in June 2012.

AFP/hc

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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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