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Interview

Having a ball

In less than year, Alexia Putellas has lifted the Women’s Champions League trophy for the first time and won both the UEFA Women’s Player of the Year Award and the Ballon d’Or. Here the Barcelona captain tells Jerôme Vitoux how she keeps ahead of the game

PHOTOGRAPHY David Ramos

Tell us about when you first kicked a ball…

I started when I was six years old or so. I played all the time in the school playground, in the town square. I don’t know where I got my passion for football because I don’t have any professional footballers in my family, but they were very keen on Barça. At my house they were always watching football.

Who were your role models?

I didn’t watch women’s football growing up because I basically didn’t have access to it; in my house we only watched men’s football. So Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, especially Andrés Iniesta and Xavi – there’s also Lionel Messi – they were my role models. As I got older I always liked Camille Abily, Louisa Nécib, Nadine Kessler – three quality midfielders. I tried to learn what I could from them.

Alexia Putellas hugs her Ballon d’Or

Is it true that you have studied games Xavi played?

Yes, especially during the pandemic. You’d be stuck at home and you’d put the TV on. There would be reruns of classic games from Xavi and Iniesta’s era. I tried to analyse the way they saw things: their passing and their positioning on the pitch. You improve by watching the best in the world and try to take something from their game. It’s not about copying them because each individual has their own strengths, but you watch these players to see what you can learn from them. Xavi looks around twice before receiving the ball. He doesn’t just take one glance, he looks a second time as the ball is coming to him. He’s great at anticipating things and spotting options so that he’s not closed down.

How important is doing the right thing out of possession?

What you do without the ball influences what you’ll do with it – what will happen next, whether you win the ball or a team-mate does. If I move a metre more to the left, it will have an impact on my team-mate’s decision in many ways. What’s more, it’s about looking at where the opponent is positioned, what you think they’ll do with the ball and where they’ll play the following pass. There are many things I believe are crucial when you’re out of possession to ensure you make the right decision when you regain possession.

Tell us about when you first kicked a ball…

I started when I was six years old or so. I played all the time in the school playground, in the town square. I don’t know where I got my passion for football because I don’t have any professional footballers in my family, but they were very keen on Barça. At my house they were always watching football.

Who were your role models?

I didn’t watch women’s football growing up because I basically didn’t have access to it; in my house we only watched men’s football. So Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, especially Andrés Iniesta and Xavi – there’s also Lionel Messi – they were my role models. As I got older I always liked Camille Abily, Louisa Nécib, Nadine Kessler – three quality midfielders. I tried to learn what I could from them.

Alexia Putellas hugs her Ballon d’Or

Is it true that you have studied games Xavi played?

Yes, especially during the pandemic. You’d be stuck at home and you’d put the TV on. There would be reruns of classic games from Xavi and Iniesta’s era. I tried to analyse the way they saw things: their passing and their positioning on the pitch. You improve by watching the best in the world and try to take something from their game. It’s not about copying them because each individual has their own strengths, but you watch these players to see what you can learn from them. Xavi looks around twice before receiving the ball. He doesn’t just take one glance, he looks a second time as the ball is coming to him. He’s great at anticipating things and spotting options so that he’s not closed down.

How important is doing the right thing out of possession?

What you do without the ball influences what you’ll do with it – what will happen next, whether you win the ball or a team-mate does. If I move a metre more to the left, it will have an impact on my team-mate’s decision in many ways. What’s more, it’s about looking at where the opponent is positioned, what you think they’ll do with the ball and where they’ll play the following pass. There are many things I believe are crucial when you’re out of possession to ensure you make the right decision when you regain possession.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

If someone was to say that you simplify the game, would you agree?

Well, I read some time ago that the most complicated thing sometimes is to do the simplest thing. I do put a lot of energy into improving the simplest aspects, such as controlling the ball or making a pass; how much weight you put on it and where it goes. This can really condition how a passage of play goes and give more time to my team-mate, so that they’re in a better position because of my pass.

You have a real instinct for the game…

I understand football as being made up of different parts, different phases. As a player you look to improve overall, so you analyse your game in each phase. You improve your fitness to cover more ground; improve your involvement in both defence and attack, so as not to limit yourself. I’ve really noticed an improvement in terms of fitness as I’m now able to cover more ground. The temptation is to think: “My fitness level is already good, so there’s no need to improve it.” However, if you work on it you can cover those extra 20 metres and get into the box more easily; it adds to your game. So improving certain aspects of your game will then benefit your overall level.

“When I started, being a women’s footballer was not even considered a job. In the past 20 years, everything has changed”

You have achieved so much already this year. How do you stop all this going to your head?

To be honest I don’t stop to think about it. I didn’t stop to think about it when I didn’t have all these awards and now that they have given them to me, I don’t stop to think about it either. We are in a sport that gives you an award and two days later you have a match, then three days later you have another match. It’s a matter of never stopping and I love it. The seasons fly by, they really do. But I haven’t paused to take it in. I just try to keep improving, becoming more complete, and that’s the challenge every season, to win more trophies.

When you started playing, did you expect women’s football to achieve so much coverage?

Not at all. When I started, being a women’s footballer was not even considered a job, at least in Spain. In the past 20 years everything has changed a lot, and I think that in the years to come this will change even more.

Does it mean more pressure?

No. When someone talks to me about pressure, I always say the same: I love pressure. I love knowing that I must win every match, that we have to be the best. It’s part of my job and I might get bored if I didn’t feel like that. 

Tell us about when you first kicked a ball…

I started when I was six years old or so. I played all the time in the school playground, in the town square. I don’t know where I got my passion for football because I don’t have any professional footballers in my family, but they were very keen on Barça. At my house they were always watching football.

Who were your role models?

I didn’t watch women’s football growing up because I basically didn’t have access to it; in my house we only watched men’s football. So Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, especially Andrés Iniesta and Xavi – there’s also Lionel Messi – they were my role models. As I got older I always liked Camille Abily, Louisa Nécib, Nadine Kessler – three quality midfielders. I tried to learn what I could from them.

Alexia Putellas hugs her Ballon d’Or

Is it true that you have studied games Xavi played?

Yes, especially during the pandemic. You’d be stuck at home and you’d put the TV on. There would be reruns of classic games from Xavi and Iniesta’s era. I tried to analyse the way they saw things: their passing and their positioning on the pitch. You improve by watching the best in the world and try to take something from their game. It’s not about copying them because each individual has their own strengths, but you watch these players to see what you can learn from them. Xavi looks around twice before receiving the ball. He doesn’t just take one glance, he looks a second time as the ball is coming to him. He’s great at anticipating things and spotting options so that he’s not closed down.

How important is doing the right thing out of possession?

What you do without the ball influences what you’ll do with it – what will happen next, whether you win the ball or a team-mate does. If I move a metre more to the left, it will have an impact on my team-mate’s decision in many ways. What’s more, it’s about looking at where the opponent is positioned, what you think they’ll do with the ball and where they’ll play the following pass. There are many things I believe are crucial when you’re out of possession to ensure you make the right decision when you regain possession.

Having a ball
Interview

Having a ball

In less than year, Alexia Putellas has lifted the Women’s Champions League trophy for the first time and won both the UEFA Women’s Player of the Year Award and the Ballon d’Or. Here the Barcelona captain tells Jerôme Vitoux how she keeps ahead of the game

PHOTOGRAPHY David Ramos

Tell us about when you first kicked a ball…

I started when I was six years old or so. I played all the time in the school playground, in the town square. I don’t know where I got my passion for football because I don’t have any professional footballers in my family, but they were very keen on Barça. At my house they were always watching football.

Who were your role models?

I didn’t watch women’s football growing up because I basically didn’t have access to it; in my house we only watched men’s football. So Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, especially Andrés Iniesta and Xavi – there’s also Lionel Messi – they were my role models. As I got older I always liked Camille Abily, Louisa Nécib, Nadine Kessler – three quality midfielders. I tried to learn what I could from them.

Alexia Putellas hugs her Ballon d’Or

Is it true that you have studied games Xavi played?

Yes, especially during the pandemic. You’d be stuck at home and you’d put the TV on. There would be reruns of classic games from Xavi and Iniesta’s era. I tried to analyse the way they saw things: their passing and their positioning on the pitch. You improve by watching the best in the world and try to take something from their game. It’s not about copying them because each individual has their own strengths, but you watch these players to see what you can learn from them. Xavi looks around twice before receiving the ball. He doesn’t just take one glance, he looks a second time as the ball is coming to him. He’s great at anticipating things and spotting options so that he’s not closed down.

How important is doing the right thing out of possession?

What you do without the ball influences what you’ll do with it – what will happen next, whether you win the ball or a team-mate does. If I move a metre more to the left, it will have an impact on my team-mate’s decision in many ways. What’s more, it’s about looking at where the opponent is positioned, what you think they’ll do with the ball and where they’ll play the following pass. There are many things I believe are crucial when you’re out of possession to ensure you make the right decision when you regain possession.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

Tell us about when you first kicked a ball…

I started when I was six years old or so. I played all the time in the school playground, in the town square. I don’t know where I got my passion for football because I don’t have any professional footballers in my family, but they were very keen on Barça. At my house they were always watching football.

Who were your role models?

I didn’t watch women’s football growing up because I basically didn’t have access to it; in my house we only watched men’s football. So Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, especially Andrés Iniesta and Xavi – there’s also Lionel Messi – they were my role models. As I got older I always liked Camille Abily, Louisa Nécib, Nadine Kessler – three quality midfielders. I tried to learn what I could from them.

Alexia Putellas hugs her Ballon d’Or

Is it true that you have studied games Xavi played?

Yes, especially during the pandemic. You’d be stuck at home and you’d put the TV on. There would be reruns of classic games from Xavi and Iniesta’s era. I tried to analyse the way they saw things: their passing and their positioning on the pitch. You improve by watching the best in the world and try to take something from their game. It’s not about copying them because each individual has their own strengths, but you watch these players to see what you can learn from them. Xavi looks around twice before receiving the ball. He doesn’t just take one glance, he looks a second time as the ball is coming to him. He’s great at anticipating things and spotting options so that he’s not closed down.

How important is doing the right thing out of possession?

What you do without the ball influences what you’ll do with it – what will happen next, whether you win the ball or a team-mate does. If I move a metre more to the left, it will have an impact on my team-mate’s decision in many ways. What’s more, it’s about looking at where the opponent is positioned, what you think they’ll do with the ball and where they’ll play the following pass. There are many things I believe are crucial when you’re out of possession to ensure you make the right decision when you regain possession.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

If someone was to say that you simplify the game, would you agree?

Well, I read some time ago that the most complicated thing sometimes is to do the simplest thing. I do put a lot of energy into improving the simplest aspects, such as controlling the ball or making a pass; how much weight you put on it and where it goes. This can really condition how a passage of play goes and give more time to my team-mate, so that they’re in a better position because of my pass.

You have a real instinct for the game…

I understand football as being made up of different parts, different phases. As a player you look to improve overall, so you analyse your game in each phase. You improve your fitness to cover more ground; improve your involvement in both defence and attack, so as not to limit yourself. I’ve really noticed an improvement in terms of fitness as I’m now able to cover more ground. The temptation is to think: “My fitness level is already good, so there’s no need to improve it.” However, if you work on it you can cover those extra 20 metres and get into the box more easily; it adds to your game. So improving certain aspects of your game will then benefit your overall level.

“When I started, being a women’s footballer was not even considered a job. In the past 20 years, everything has changed”

You have achieved so much already this year. How do you stop all this going to your head?

To be honest I don’t stop to think about it. I didn’t stop to think about it when I didn’t have all these awards and now that they have given them to me, I don’t stop to think about it either. We are in a sport that gives you an award and two days later you have a match, then three days later you have another match. It’s a matter of never stopping and I love it. The seasons fly by, they really do. But I haven’t paused to take it in. I just try to keep improving, becoming more complete, and that’s the challenge every season, to win more trophies.

When you started playing, did you expect women’s football to achieve so much coverage?

Not at all. When I started, being a women’s footballer was not even considered a job, at least in Spain. In the past 20 years everything has changed a lot, and I think that in the years to come this will change even more.

Does it mean more pressure?

No. When someone talks to me about pressure, I always say the same: I love pressure. I love knowing that I must win every match, that we have to be the best. It’s part of my job and I might get bored if I didn’t feel like that. 

Tell us about when you first kicked a ball…

I started when I was six years old or so. I played all the time in the school playground, in the town square. I don’t know where I got my passion for football because I don’t have any professional footballers in my family, but they were very keen on Barça. At my house they were always watching football.

Who were your role models?

I didn’t watch women’s football growing up because I basically didn’t have access to it; in my house we only watched men’s football. So Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, especially Andrés Iniesta and Xavi – there’s also Lionel Messi – they were my role models. As I got older I always liked Camille Abily, Louisa Nécib, Nadine Kessler – three quality midfielders. I tried to learn what I could from them.

Alexia Putellas hugs her Ballon d’Or

Is it true that you have studied games Xavi played?

Yes, especially during the pandemic. You’d be stuck at home and you’d put the TV on. There would be reruns of classic games from Xavi and Iniesta’s era. I tried to analyse the way they saw things: their passing and their positioning on the pitch. You improve by watching the best in the world and try to take something from their game. It’s not about copying them because each individual has their own strengths, but you watch these players to see what you can learn from them. Xavi looks around twice before receiving the ball. He doesn’t just take one glance, he looks a second time as the ball is coming to him. He’s great at anticipating things and spotting options so that he’s not closed down.

How important is doing the right thing out of possession?

What you do without the ball influences what you’ll do with it – what will happen next, whether you win the ball or a team-mate does. If I move a metre more to the left, it will have an impact on my team-mate’s decision in many ways. What’s more, it’s about looking at where the opponent is positioned, what you think they’ll do with the ball and where they’ll play the following pass. There are many things I believe are crucial when you’re out of possession to ensure you make the right decision when you regain possession.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

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