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FOOTBALL

Real Madrid ‘very happy’ with Solari after fourth consecutive win

Real Madrid director Emilio Butragueno has said the club are delighted with Santiago Solari's spell in charge after the team posted their fourth consecutive win by beating Celta Vigo on Sunday.

Real Madrid 'very happy' with Solari after fourth consecutive win
Photo: AFP

Madrid claimed a 4-2 victory at Balaidos and the expectation is Solari will now be given the job full-time, following a transformation in results.    

Four victories during his tenure have brought 15 goals scored and just two conceded while Real have cut the gap behind Barcelona to four points in La Liga.

The win over Celta was the club's last fixture before Solari's two weeks as an interim coach ends during the international break.   

READ ALSO: Solari: Five things you need to know about Real Madrid's new coach 

“He has done excellently,” Butragueno said on Sunday. “He arrived in a very particular moment and has achieved very good results, above all today against Celta in a very difficult game. We are very happy with how things have gone.”   

Butragueno would not confirm whether Solari's position would be made permanent but it is likely the Argentinian will remain in the post, at least until the end of the season.

“We will see,” Solari said. “I usually don't plan too far ahead but in principle, it's my day off tomorrow. 

“The important thing is to do everything for the good of the team and Real Madrid. Nothing else is important for me.”   

Madrid defender Alvaro Odriozola said the players are behind Solari.   

“These things are decided by those at the top, we just have to work to get out of the crisis,” Odriozola said.   

“We'll go to the death with him, he's a great coach and of course we want him to continue.” 

Madrid dominated a chaotic match against Celta that featured three goals and a red card in the final 10 minutes.   

Karim Benzema scored a brilliant opener before instigating a second, his shot cannoning in off Gustavo Cabral.   

Hugo Mallo pulled one back for the hosts in the second half but Sergio Ramos chipped in a late penalty to put the result beyond doubt and Cabral was sent off for receiving a second yellow card. Dani Ceballos' stunning effort made it four, with Brais Mendez adding a late Celta consolation. 

“The team showed a lot of personality to come through all the circumstances of the game,” Solari said.    

Madrid suffered a spate of injuries as Casemiro, Sergio Reguilon and Nacho were all forced off. Gareth Bale took a knock to his left ankle in the first half but was able to continue.

“Gareth made a massive effort, his ankle was very swollen,” Solari said. “Celta played very aggressively, on the edge of the rules.” 

By AFP's Thomas Allnut 

 

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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