Löw defends new Real duo against Mourinho gripe

Germany coach Joachim Löw has leapt to the defence of Real Madrid's new boys Sami Khedira and Mesut Özil after their club coach Jose Mourinho grumbled about the German pair's lack of Spanish.

Löw defends new Real duo against Mourinho gripe
Photo: DPA

Real coach Mourinho told a Spanish newspaper he is concerned about the German midfielders, who joined Real after the World Cup, as neither can yet speak Spanish and are not mixing with their team-mates.

“The two Germans don’t have an easy life,” Mourinho told Spanish newspaper AS.

“Their participation socially in the squad is zero. Özil lives with Khedira and Khedira with Özil. They don’t speak Spanish, they say ‘buenos dias’ and ‘hola’ and that is about it. They do not even speak English. They speak English a little better than Spanish, but it is difficult to communicate with them,” he said.

Having both enhanced their reputations with stellar performances at the World Cup in South Africa, Özil and Khedira will play for Germany against Belgium in Brussels on Friday in the first Euro 2012 qualifier.

Löw has said the pair cannot be expected to have learnt Spanish already having only joined Real in the last few months and added he could not understand Mourinho’s concerns.

“You cannot expect that a player can speak a new language after only three or four weeks in a foreign country,” said Löw. “I have spoken with them and they impressed me. They told me that they were very well received at Real.”

Both Özil and Khedira came off the bench in the second-half of Real’s 0-0 draw with Mallorca at the weekend and Khedira missed his best chance to score with a header.

The pair flew into Frankfurt on Tuesday to meet up with the national side before the trip to Brussels and insisted they were enjoying life in Spain and were eager to work on the language.

“It’s colder in Germany, but it’s very nice to be back amongst German colleagues,” said Khedira, who has found an apartment for him and Özil and said he wants to learn the language as quickly as possible.

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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.