FC Barcelona: Alexia Putellas returns nine months later: “I was afraid I would never be myself on the pitch again” | Sports

On the table in the bar of the Mandarin Hotel in Barcelona there is a chocolate dessert. Looks delicious. “Sugar!” exclaims Alexia Putellas. It’s February and the Barcelona captain is in the last stage of recovering from the injury she suffered to the cruciate ligament in her left knee. She doesn’t try it. Not even at that moment, when most jocks would slip up, does Putellas give in to temptation. “He trains like nobody else, he takes care of himself like nobody else. It’s an example. Everything that happens is not a coincidence”, emphasizes Mapi León. “What for a normal person is a recovery of 15 days, Alexia does it in 10; what for others is a year for her is 10 months, ”adds Adrián Martínez, the physiotherapist of the 11 azulgrana. For Alexia there is no normality, she ignored it when she was one of the few girls who played soccer, also now, the only winner of two Ballon d’Ors. Nine months after her knee creaked, Putellas reappeared this Sunday afternoon. The agony for the best player in the world is over. “Alexia, Alexia, Alexia”, celebrated the Johan Cruyff.

It was not the first time that the fans invoked the name of Putellas. In fact, it was already a ritual. Since he was injured, Johan Cruyff remembered his captain in every game. Also the Camp Nou, home of women’s Barça in the Champions League. “I thank the fans for all the games in which they have helped and encouraged me. That in the 11th minute they remembered me has helped me in the lowest moments of the injury, ”Alexia acknowledged yesterday to his people.

“Does Alexia play today?” Asked a Barca fan before the duel against Sporting Huelva. Anxiety about the return of Putellas had increased since the captain received a medical discharge before the duel against Chelsea, in the second leg of the Champions League semifinal. “Coming back was too risky due to the pace of the match. We will try to get him to play in the next one”, said Jonatan Giráldez, after qualifying for the Eindhoven final. He complied.

“10, nine, eight, seven…”, the Barcelona fans sang in the 58th minute when Alexia jumped in to warm up. With the score 2-0, all eyes were on the Johan Cruyff side: Putellas was exercising. When Giráldez called her, the 5,289 people in the stadium stood up. Most, true to modern times, turned on their mobile cameras. She kept up her ritual, two small steps with her right leg and onto the field. “He has been very nice since he has come out to warm up,” said the Barcelona coach, after winning the title; “You didn’t have to give her much information because on an emotional level the player is already a bit delicate. I told him to enjoy himself, to feel the warmth of the fans. It was a special day.”

Putellas takes the field against Sporting Huelva.
Putellas takes the field against Sporting Huelva.Toni Albir (EFE)

On July 5, when Spain was preparing for its debut in the last Euro Cup in England, Putellas tried to dribble past a teammate in training. He took a little jump to get around the mark when he heard the worst noise for a professional athlete. “I felt the crack and fell to the ground,” he recalls. So the worst. “I can not believe it. It just can’t be. I got up, took a step and my knee went out. my head did boom: ‘I’m out,’ explains the 11 Barca. Initially, she called her mother. “I have to quit soccer,” she told him. Immediately afterwards, she searched her contacts for Giráldez. “Find yourself another to win the Champions League,” she wrote to him. The Barça coach, on vacation in Vigo, did not take long to make a video call with his captain. “Seeing her was hard. I understand that his mentality was negative at that time, ”explains the Barça coach.

The first reaction: defense mechanism. “The initial stretch was tough. I wanted to disconnect from everything”, reflects Giráldez. However, Alexia did not know how. “And now what do I do?”, she wondered; “I don’t know what to do on weekends. For me the normal thing is to travel, play and return to training ”. While her surroundings and her doctors asked her for patience, she Alexia discovered a new life. A new normal for a person who had always rebelled against normality. “I had to know what is done. I tried to do things that I wasn’t going to be able to do when I played again. Going on a Sunday to eat with my friends. Train in the morning and go for a walk on the Costa Brava in the afternoon, ”says Alexia. Everything was new, surely revealing, but not enough. “When can I play again?” She would ask the doctors when they allowed her to train in the pool.

In the Barcelona Sports City, meanwhile, they sought to reduce the concern of their captain, especially her nervousness. “I have not felt fear. But it has crossed my mind not to be myself on the field again ”, explains Putellas. The future, uncertain as ever; the past, intense as always. “I knew that I had been privileged,” says Alexia. No one was going to erase that, but neither was her ambition, much less her love for the ball. On November 8, four months after the injury, she started running. Until on February 3rd she was reunited with her true self.

“The first day I touched the ball I started to cry,” he confesses. They don’t forget that morning in Sant Joan Despí either. “When you see that after everything she’s won, she touches the ball and gets excited, you think: ‘She’s done. She is the same Alexia as always, ”says Giráldez. The ball once again acted as a pain reliever, it had already been when her father died, now to erase the anguish of months of uncertainty. However, you still had to keep killing anxiety. “As time went by and she began to be closer to us, everything was easier,” says the coach. When she returned to train with the group, her teammates received her with an ovation, the same joy with which they malted her this Sunday against Sporting. Putellas forced the recovery margins as she had overcome barriers to become the best soccer player in the world. Ultimately, she Alexia had returned to her normality, that of abnormality.

Putellas has not changed the reality of soccer practiced by women, she has invented it. She has ostracized him to the most charming escape, she has created a mirror for all the girls who dream of playing ball. She, however, breathes as if her knee hadn’t creaked nine months ago. Nothing unusual in Alexia’s life. “You already know where all the energies are. See you all in Eindhoven ”, she closed. And she started singing: “A match day…”. Alexia smiles. Barça smiles. Smile, above all, football.

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