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Ballon d'Or for Alexia Putellas: Barcelona's next legend in the making after Lionel Messi

Barcelona's Alexia Putellas became the first Spaniard (male or female) since 1960 to win the Ballon d'Or Feminin on a night that saw legendary striker Lionel Messi renew his grasp on global football's top individual prize with a record-extending 7th win.

Ballon d'Or for Alexia Putellas Barcelona's next legend in the making after Lionel Messi
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Paris, First Published Nov 30, 2021, 11:59 AM IST
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History was created at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris on Monday (November 29).  Argentina maestro and Paris Saint-Germain star striker Lionel Messi bagged his record-extending 7th Ballon d'Or trophy. At the same time, Barcelona's Alexia Putellas became the first Spaniard (male or female) since 1960 to win the Ballon d'Or Feminin. 

The night celebrated the 34-year-old Barcelona legend's eventful year marred by his abrupt exit from Camp Nou and a rapid pivot to French giants PSG. Messi previously won the Ballon d'Or in 2009, '10, '11, '12, '15 and '19. However, it took something special — an influential run en route to a major international title for Argentina, i.e. the Copa America glory — to renew Messi's grasp on global football's top individual prize.

Also read: Ballon d’Or 2021: Lionel Messi wins record-extending 7th title, Cristiano Ronaldo finishes 6th

The Ballon d'Or awards also set the stage for another Barcelona legend in the making, Alexia Putellas, who led the Spanish giants to the Treble this year and became the first player from her country to win this honour since the legendary midfielder Luis Suarez in 1960.

The addition of the Ballon d'Or Feminin three years ago was a high point for women's soccer. Created by the magazine France Football, the men's version has been running since the 1960s, but in 2018 the creators finally recognized the need to honour and celebrate the women football stars. Providing this equal footing to the women in the beautiful game has given these stars a massive visibility boost. These women players standing alongside legends like Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Cristiano Ronaldo and other top names in the men's game has introduced them to a new league of football stars. It has also enhanced their scope of having an illustrious career, and let's not forget commercial opportunities that have more often than not stayed shy from these women.

Barcelona Femeni and Spain's attacking midfielder Alexia Putellas had a spectacular season, seeing the Spanish club bag the Primera Division, the Copa de la Reina, and their first-ever Champions League trophy, beating Chelsea 4-0 in the final. On Monday (November 29) night, the honour received made Putellas only the third woman to win the Ballon d'Or after Ada Hegerberg in 2018 and Megan Rapinoe in 2019. No awards were given in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Alexia Putellas wowed fans and football critics last season, where she helped Barcelona win the Treble and scored 26 goals in 42 games overall. Now she has continued her fine form into the current campaign of the Spanish giants, netting 14 goals in just 13 appearances. 

Upon receiving the Ballon d'Or Feminin honour, an emotional Alexia Putellas thanked all her teammates throughout her career and the ones she has right now. Although the prize is for individual contribution, Putellas said that football is a team sport and thanked Barcelona for giving her the absolute privilege to represent them.

Having completed a year at Barca's youth academy when she was younger, Putellas spent her formative years at Espanyol, breaking into the 1st team at 16 before signing for Levante, aged 17. At the age of 18, i.e. in 2012, she returned to Barcelona. Over the last decade or so, Putellas has played an instrumental role in transforming the club into one of the best teams in Europe. Since joining Barcelona, Puttelas has won five league titles, six Copas de la Reina, and one UEFA Women's Champions League title. Putellas has scored 117 goals in 271 appearances for Barcelona so far in her career.

What makes Alexia Putella one of the best players in the world is her success at Barcelona and her journey with her national team Spain. Putellas has helped Spain's youth national teams bag two UEFA Women's U-17 Euros on the international stage in 2010 and 2011. The team also finished second place in the 2012 UEFA Women's U-19 Euro. She made her debut for the senior national team in 2012 and featured in three major international competitions, including Spain's Women's World Cup debut in 2015, the 2017 UEFA Women's Euro, and the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup.

As of 2021, Putellas has the fourth-most all-time appearances for Barcelona and is currently their second-highest all-time scorer, trailing only behind Jennifer Hermoso. She also holds the record of most appearances for Spain with 92 caps, surpassing Marta Torrejón's record of 90 caps in 2021. 

In August this year, Putellas won the UEFA Women's Player of the Year Award, and now with the Ballon d'Or 2021 feather on her cap, Alexia Putellas is undoubtedly on her way to becoming the 'Goddess' of Barcelona, in a club where Lionel Messi was revered as 'God'.

Also read: Messi, Ronaldo, Salah, Lewandowski among 11 shortlisted for Best FIFA Men's Player 2021 award

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