FC Barcelona and Spain star Alexia Putellas retained the Ballon d’Or Féminin on Monday, the award presented to the best women’s player of the last year, becoming the first woman in history to win back-to-back Ballon d’Ors.
The 28-year-old midfielder claimed the prize despite missing Euro 2022 with an anterior cruciate ligament injury. She faced stiff competition from the likes of Beth Mead and Lucy Bronze, who both won that competition with England.
“I’m very happy to be back here,” Putellas said when accepting her award. “A year ago, I was able to win this prize and it pushed me to want to get even better.
“Without my teammates, this wouldn’t have been possible. I want to thank the technical staff and the coach as well. And to thank everyone involved at the club off the pitch.”
While Putellas now faces a lengthy layoff as she recovers from injury, she was a pivotal member of Barcelona’s success last season.
As captain, she inspired the Catalan club to a domestic treble, scoring 18 league goals and providing 15 league assists.
She was also the top scorer in the women’s Champions League last season with 11 goals, but Barça was denied a second title after being beaten by Olympique Lyonnais Féminin in the final.
England’s Mead finished in second, with Australia and Chelsea star Sam Kerr being voted third.
Meanwhile, Karim Benzema was crowned the winner of the men’s award after a stellar season with Real Madrid, receiving the trophy from the last Frenchman to win the award, Zinedine Zidane, 24 years ago.
The Frenchman inspired his side to the La Liga title and led scoring in the Champions League last season with 15 goals – including some pivotal ones in the knockout stages – to help Madrid to its 14th European Cup.
However, while no one can have an issue with Benzema claiming his maiden Ballon d’Or, many of his teammates have raised an eyebrow over the award ceremony.
Real Madrid players were particularly perturbed when they failed to win the award handed out to the best men’s team, despite winning La Liga, the Spanish Supercup and the Champions League.
Madrid was voted in third, behind Liverpool in second and Manchester City in first – who many fans say play a more attractive style of football. Los Blancos beat Liverpool in the final of the Champions League.
“We were all a bit confused at the City win,” Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois told Spanish radio, annoyed that he also finished seventh in the individual awards despite winning best goalkeeper.
Meanwhile, his Madrid teammate Toni Kroos tweeted: “3rd best team in 2021/22 – happy @realmadrid?”
The awards are voted for by a select group of 100 journalists from around the world but every year seems to bring fresh controversy from fans and players alike.
The ceremony was hosted in Paris, France, with players from across the globe attending.
Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappé was one of those to make an appearance, but the World Cup winner was given a mixed reaction from people who had gathered outside the venue.
Rumors last week suggested the 23-year-old was unhappy at PSG and that he was looking for a move away from the club as soon as January, just months after spurning Real Madrid to sign an extension to stay in Paris.
Both PSG and Mbappé have since denied such speculation, but he still received some boos from some in the crowd as he made his way to the red carpet.
Mbappé, who was not expected to win the award, came sixth overall.