Madrid (AFP) – 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.
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.
It was in the following year that she made the step up to the national team and she has gone on to feature in four major tournaments with Spain, winning 92 caps.
Last season was her crowning glory as her childhood side won the Primera Division and the Copa de la Reina as well as the Champions League in a matter of weeks, a historic achievement for a Spanish women’s outfit.
Individual recognition shortly followed, as she was named UEFA women’s player of the year and Monday’s announcement in Paris made her just the second Spanish player, after Luis Suarez in 1960, to win the much-coveted Ballon d’Or.