17.10.2022 21:57 h

Putellas eyes return from injury this season

Alexia Putellas said she hoped to return from a serious knee injury before the end of this season but refused to discuss her future with the Spanish national team after winning her second successive women's Ballon d'Or on Monday.

The reward for Putellas, 28, came after a season in which she was the top scorer as her club Barcelona reached the Champions League final.

The prize, awarded at a star-studded ceremony at the Chatelet Theatre in central Paris, is also a consolation for Putellas who is currently recovering from a serious knee injury.

The injury saw her miss the Euro in England in July and means she faces a battle to play at all this season.

"The knee is doing well. I just need to focus on recovering and if everything goes as I hope -- and as the doctors and my club hope -- I hope to be back playing this season," she said.

There is a World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in July and August next year, although the presence of Putellas appears in some doubt anyway for reasons other than her injury.

The Barcelona captain recently published a statement calling for change, along with 15 national team players who asked not to be called up by Spain, amid differences with the coach Jorge Vilda and the Spanish football federation.

"All I am going to say today about the national team is that obviously it is a topic that makes me very sad," she said.

"I think it needs to be spoken about but today is not the day. This is a day for celebration, a historic day, and that's all."

Putellas saw off stiff competition, notably from three stars of the England team that won the European Championship, to take the Ballon d'Or following a campaign which also saw Barcelona win a domestic league and cup double.

"It makes me even more annoyed to be injured, but I am very happy to be here," Putellas added.

"To retain the trophy is much harder. When I injured my knee I thought my chances of winning it had gone but in the end the jury based their decision on the whole of last season, of which I only missed one month."

Putellas scored 11 goals in the Champions League last season as holders Barcelona reached the final but lost to Lyon.

It is just the fourth time that a women's Ballon d'Or has been awarded, with Norway's Ada Hegerberg winning the inaugural prize in 2018 before United States superstar Megan Rapinoe succeeded her in 2019.

There was no Ballon d'Or gala in 2020 due to the pandemic before Putellas won it for the first time last year after helping Barca to Women's Champions League glory for the first time in their history.

Putellas had already won the UEFA player of the year prize in August.

While Karim Benzema of Real Madrid was the overwhelming favourite to win the men's prize, the identity of the women's winner appeared far less certain.

Beth Mead had been a leading contender after scoring six goals for England on their run to Euro glory on home soil, their first major tournament victory.

Her England teammates Lucy Bronze and Millie Bright had also been nominated, as had Hegerberg, who helped Lyon beat Barcelona in the Champions League final.