Who is 2021 Ballon d’Or Winner Alexia Putellas?
Attacking midfielder, Alexia Putellas Segura was born in Mollet del Vallés, Spain on the 4th February 1994. Despite being regarded as the best female player in the world, she started her footballing love as a young girl as a supporter of FC Barcelona. She would travel with the Penya of Mollet del Vallés to watch Barcelona’s matches with her father. However, she was born into a basketball-playing family, but broke away from that as she first began playing football in 2001 when she was 6 years old. The first club she played for was CE Sabadell after being enrolled by a family friend who also played for the club. In 2005, she spent a year with FC Barcelona’s youth academy and joined RCD Espanyol’s youth teams as a 12-year-old and stayed there for four years.
As she played for Espanyol in her youth career, she made her senior team debut with the club as a 16-year-old. She was named and played in the squad that won the 2010 Copa de la Reina in their 3-1 win against Rayo Vallecano. In 2011, she started in the final of the Copa de la Reina where they lost 1-0 in extra time against idol club Barcelona. Due to her performance with the club, it identified her as one of Spain’s best young players.
When she was 17, a month after the 2011 Copa de la Reina final, Putellas signed for Levante. However, whilst with the club, they didn’t compete in the 2012 Copa de la Reina due to their failure of qualifying in the previous season. Despite this, Putellas had an impressive and successful 2011-12 season as she scored 15 goals out of the 34 appearances she made for the club and finished as their top scorer that season.
For the 2012-13 season, she moved back to Barcelona Women in the summer and started and played in most of Barca’s matches that season. Due to their previous league win title, they were set to make their debut in the 2012-13 UEFA Women’s Champions League and Putellas made her Champions League debut against Arsenal as they lost 3-0 at home and another 4-0 loss in their away leg which saw the club exiting the tournament in the Round of 32. On the 4th of May 2013, she won her first league title with the club as they won 2-1 against Athletic Bilbao and she also went on to score Barca’s third goal in their game against Prainsa Zaragoza, which saw Putellas go viral due to the intensity of the goal and caused a stir with the Spanish football media. The club won their first domestic double in their history as they won the final 4-0 and Putellas was chosen as the MVP of the Copa de la Reina Final for her performance throughout.
She won her second consecutive league title with the club after the team went unbeaten throughout 27 rounds. She was an integral part of Barcelona’s 2014 Copa de la Reina campaign as she scored in each of the knockout stages. In their home leg of the semifinals, she scored in their 2-1 win against Rayo Vallecano. Due to her scoring in each game of the competition, it earned her MVP of the Copa de la Reina for the second season in a row. In the 2014-15 season, she scored her first ever Champions League goal in the Round of 32 in the 2014-15 UEFA Women’s Champions League against Slavia Prague. After beating Slavia Prague they advanced further through the competition, but failed to get past Bristol City in the Round of 16. Despite this, she won her third league title with the club after Barcelona won in April 2015.
After helping win the Champions League in the previous season, she missed their first match of the 2015-16 season against BIIK Kazygurt. However, she returned the following match as she got an assist in the clubs 4-0 win. In their match against Fundación Albacete, she scored her first four-goal game of her career in their 10-0 win. Following on from her impressive 15-16 season, she was named as a candidate for the FIFPro Women’s World XI for the first time in 2017 where she was listed amongst the forwards. In their 2016-17 season, Barcelona reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Women’s Champions League for the first time in club history where they were ultimately knocked out from a 5-1 aggregate against PSG. However, she went on to win her third Copa de la Rein as they won 4-1 against Atlético Madrid.
Following on from their successful 16-17 season, she wore the captain’s band for the first time in a Barcelona match in October of 2017 for their 17-18 season. In the 2018 Copa de la Reina quarterfinal, she was the sole scorer in both of the legs as she scored the match-winners against Levante, bringing them to the semi-finals once more. After beating Athletic Bilbao in the semi-finals, the club made it to the final where they won in a 1-0 defeat over Atlético Madrid.
In their 2019-20 season, she was given second captaincy for the first time at Barcelona ater being named as their fourth captain in the previous year. For the first few months of the season, she captained the side during Vicky Losada’s hamstring injury but became more a dominant captain as Losada moved to a bench position. Putellas scored Barca’s first goal of the 19-20 Champions League campaign against Juventus. In the February of the following year, she captained both legs of the first ever Supercopa de España Feminina and scored a brace in their 10-1 thrashing over Real Sociedad as she won her first major title with the club in two years. Later on in that month, she made her 300th appearance for the club and became the fourth player in Barca’s history to reach that many appearances. Due to COVID-19, the 19-20 league season was suspended and left Barcelona being crowned the winner with 21 out of 32 matches played leaving it as Putellas’ first league title since 2015 and her fourth with the club overall. In that season, she ended up contributing 10 goals and 8 assist out of 20 appearances which lead her to be named as the best player of the 2019-20 campaign.
With the resumption of the 2019-20 UEFA Women’s Champions League, Barcelona were knocked out in the semi-finals after a 1-0 loss to VfL Wolfsburg. However, the club went onto win the Copa de la Reina making it Putellas’ fifth with the club. She was named part of Spain’s squad for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup and played in each of Spain’s three group stage games where they advanced to the Round of 16. However, they ended up losing to the United States in a 1-2 loss.
As she started the 2020-21 season as Barcelona’s first captain, she started in the first ever women’s El Clásico against Real Madrid where she scored the fourth and final goal of the match and captained against former club Espanyol in the first-time women’s teams were able to play competitive matched at the Camp Nou. She scored her 100th goal for Barcelona in their first home game in the second edition of the Women’s El Clásico. In their run in the 2020-21 Champions League, they advanced to their second ever final and beat English club Chelsea 4-0 and making it the largest margin of victory in any single-legged UWCL final, leaving Putellas selected for the UWCL Squad of the Season for that year. Later in the year, she was listed as a nominee for the UEFA Women’s Champions League Midfielder of the Season award, which she won in the August. In that same year, Putellas also won her sixth Copa de la Reina with the club as they completed the continental treble making It the first for a Spanish women’s club team. She ended the 2020-21 season as the highest-scoring midfielder with 26 goals in all competitions.
With the departure of Losada, she overtook first-captain duties at the beginning of the 21-22 season and was nominated for UEFA Women’s Player of the Year Finalist alongside teammates. She was named the winner of the award later in the month, becoming the first Spanish player to receive it. She renewed her Barcelona contract in September 2021 as she signed on for three more years until 2024. She scored one of the fastest-ever hat-tricks in her club’s history after she netted three goals in four minutes in their 8-0 victory over Valencia. She was also awarded the 2021 Ballon d’Or Féminin with this being the first Ballon d’Or nomination in her whole career. She also picked up for 91st cap in a 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifying match against Ukraine and was named the Spain Women’s national team Player of the Year making her the first player to win all three in the same year.