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FOOTBALL

Löw extends national football team contract

Germany's national football coach Joachim Löw and his staff said Tuesday they had agreed two-year extensions to their contracts hoping to build on the young team's bold showing at the World Cup.

Löw extends national football team contract

Löw, team manager Oliver Bierhoff and assistant coaches Hans-Dieter Flick and Andreas Köpke signed on with the German Football Federation (DFB) to 2012, when the European championships will be held.

The 50-year-old chief coach called the negotiations “uncomplicated,” without revealing details, and thanked DFB President Theo Zwanziger for his vote of confidence.

“We had a whole lot of fun at the World Cup and are looking forward to the work ahead,” Löw told reporters in the western city of Frankfurt, adding that he had informed a few of the players of his decision by text message.

“Many of them wrote back and congratulated me,” he said.

Germany finished third in the World Cup in South Africa, demolishing England 4-1 and favourites Argentina 4-0 before losing 1-0 to eventual champions Spain in the semi-finals. They then beat Uruguay 3-2 in a third-place playoff.

Löw has won 38 out of 55 matches since he succeeded Jürgen Klinsmann after the 2006 World Cup, taking Germany to the runners-up spot at Euro 2008.

Zwanziger said Löw had proven his knack for bringing the best out of Die Mannschaft.

“We now have an excellent foundation to achieve our most important targets,” he said.

“We have young, talented players, some of whom were playing at a world-class level in the last few weeks during the championships. We have an excellent nurturing programme for next-generation players. And we have a coach who fits perfectly with the team.”

Löw’s four-year deal expired on June 30, and talks over a new contract for him and his entire backroom staff broke down in February over financial details and Löw’s desire for more control over the Under-21 side.

Germany’s first qualifying match for Euro 2012, to be held in Poland and Ukraine, will be against Belgium in Brussels on September 3.

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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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