Ballon d’Or: How Alexia Putellas became footballing royalty

A Look at the Career of the First Spanish Winner of the Ballon d'Or Feminin

Alexia Putellas of FC Barcelona.
Alexia Putellas signed a new two-year contract with FC Barcelona in September 2021. (Photo by FC Barcelona)

Alexia Putellas won the 2021 Ballon d’Or with 186 points, beating her teammate Hermoso who collected 102 points less. Picking just one player out of Barcelona’s Champions League-winning pack was rather difficult, making Putellas’ award capture even worthier.

Alexia had a dreamy year. In fact, she might have not even dreamed of this moment when she started playing football. For most of us, dreaming big is part of the ordinary. For Alexia Putellas, dreaming of winning such an award was just the “foreshadowing”.

The night the Queen wore her crown

Kylian Mbappé had already announced that Alexia Putellas was the best player for France Football magazine when the 27-year-old Spaniard’s mother was in tears.

After thanking all her previous and current teammates, her coaches and all her family, she took a moment to especially thank her father.

“I want to dedicate it to someone who has been and will always be very special to me,” she said before emotion overwhelmed her. “… and for whom I do everything. I hope you are very proud of your daughter. Wherever you are this is for you dad,” she concluded her speech, clearly moved.

As she said a few weeks before the ceremony, “You have to keep reinventing yourself; if you stop, others are always moving forward.” And that’s exactly what Alexia did, making sure along the way that she would make her father proud of her.

The years of youth

As her mother said later in the video the organizers made for her, “Alexia found refuge in football.” A few people know that Alexia’s family was fond of basketball.

Despite that, the midfielder started being extremely passionate about football thanks to her father. She used to ask him to take her to Camp Nou, where she started manifesting her dreams.

“Wherever Alexia is, he is with her,” her mother said in the tribute video.

She started playing football in CE Sabadell at the age of six, but soon she moved to Barcelona’s Youth Academy. After just one year, she headed to Espanyol where she stayed for four years and was part of the team that won the Copa de la Reina in 2010. She was just 16 years old at the time.

In 2011, she moved to Levante where she started to stand out, scoring 15 goals in 34 games. Her return to her favourite team came one year later, and since then, she never looked back. Five Spanish Championships, six Copa de la Reina and a Champions League title later, Putellas is now the fourth most-capped player counting more than 370. She’s also the most capped player in the Spanish national team, counting 92 caps and 22 goals since her debut in 2013.

Barcelona’s dominance and Alexia’s role in it

Since Barcelona’s 2019 road to final, where they lost to sublime Lyon, lots have changed. Barcelona witnessed the 2019 Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg demolishing them after she put three of her team’s four goals in the back of their net.

Two years later, it was the “Cules” turn as they shattered Chelsea 4-0, taking the reigns from Lyon as the European Champions. The midfield star put out another excellent performance dominating the pitch. She also scored the second goal from the penalty spot and provided the assist for the third.

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If someone had never watched Putellas’ footballing display, the WCL final would be the prime example of where to start. Excellent touch on the ball, and magnificent through balls combined with tricks and flair that are out of this planet, is what the Spaniard’s game is consisted of. Her vision on the field is second to none. Some could possibly compare it to her football idols, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Iniesta.

Although the season started in September, the Mollet del Valles born star has scored 13 goals in 13 games. Meanwhile, Barcelona has only conceded three goals and have scored 68! Impeccable numbers.

The Spanish dominance and the memories of the past

In contrast to the men’s side, Barcelona Femeni is having a blast. The treble of last season, winning the Spanish league title, the Copa del la Reina and the Champions League is a product of their terrific core of Spanish players.

Two more of her teammates, Jennifer Hermoso (second) and Lieke Martens (fifth) were also having a stellar season.

Barcelona Femeni’s fans must already envision the men’s side dominance over the past decade, where most of their players were coming from “La Masia”.

Where the men’s squad had Iniesta, Xavi, Puyol, Pedro and Messi, the women’s side can now proudly brag about having their female counterparts, as Paredes, Bonmati, Torrejon, Hermoso, and of course Putellas.

Ironically, all three big winners of the day, Messi, Pedri and Putellas came from Barcelona’s youth system. “[I want to thank]…the club. Destiny wanted this to be the of its 122nd anniversary. It is a privilege to play for Barcelona,” Putellas stated after receiving the award. The Catalans fans must be cheering wildly after this.

Spain had to wait 61 years in order to witness a Spanish player (both male and female) winning the Ballon d’Or. Luis Suarez Miramontes was the first Spanish-born player to win the Ballon d’Or in 1960. However, Argentine born Alfredo Di Stefano won the award in 1957, a year after his Spanish naturalisation.

The aspiration and impact to the younger generations

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Alexia Putellas is expected to add her name to a long list of the most inspirational players ever. Before the ceremony in Paris, she had already bagged the UEFA Best Player of the Year and UEFA Midfielder of the Year, among the other MVP awards in the Copa de la Reina final, and Spain Women’s national team Player of the Year.

But as she said before the ceremony “Winning the Ballon d’Or won’t change my life. I’ll still give 100% of my efforts in training and match days”. Even after winning everything possible this year, Alexia knows that getting where she is now is not an easy task for future generations.

Messi, Pedri and Putellas all coming from “La Masia,” taking every step towards the top, had one thing in common. They overcame doubt and became an example of their own for future generations.

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“This is going to bring so much visibility to the players, so in the end, everyone wins. This goes far beyond just football,” Putellas said, one day after winning Ballon d’Or.

The midfielder herself has openly supported equity and equality. “Apart from the titles, I want to win for the national team and Barcelona. I would like to change football. I want to show the world that there is space for everyone in football – for men, women, all races… everyone,” the Spanish midfield said almost a month ago to the BBC.

Sometimes football is translated falsy in numbers. If that’s the case, Putellas had to score 38 goals and assist her teammates 27 times to get the award. But thankfully, football is more than that. “This is an individual award, but football is a team sport, and I am here thanks to my teammates,” Alexia said.

If you add humility, effort, ambition and respect into teamwork, you will most probably possess the formula for success.

And the most characteristic example of this should be Alexia Putellas.