When Alexia Putellas won the 2021 Ballon d’Or Feminin, she was the first Spanish player to be presented with the iconic golden ball since Luis Suarez in 1961. Now, she has won it back-to-back.

Putellas finished top of the 2022 standings ahead of Euro 2022 winner B*th Mead and WSL golden boot winner Sam Kerr, highlighting the incredibly stiff competition over the past season.

In the end, it was a career-high 28 goals captaining a Barcelona team that won every single domestic game it played last season that saw her rise to the top again.

Putellas has become a household name since Barça crushed Chelsea in the 2021 Champions League and announced themselves as one of the best club sides the women’s game has ever seen. After the Globe Soccer Awards in December 2021, her image was even projected onto the side of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world.

That level of fame was something she hadn’t really had to deal with prior to 2021. The 28-year-old is now one of the most recognisable footballers in the world, male or female. But, as she told The Players’ Tribune in February 2022, “I’m just concentrating on what I do every day. The rest doesn’t bother me.”

That mindset underpinned her retention of the Ballon d’Or, the first female to do so.

No one in Spain even laid a glove on Barcelona in 2021/22.

During the 2020/21 campaign, they amassed a near-perfect 99 points, but fell short of the incredible feat of a ‘perfect season’ when a second half comeback from Atletico Madrid on the final day resulted in a 4-3 defeat. But Barça went one better in 2021/22.

Played 30, won 30. 159 goals scored, 11 conceded.

It wasn’t until the sixth game of the season that they won by fewer than five goals, while as a team they scored seven or more goals as many as nine times in the league.

Putellas scored 18 times from midfield as Barça finished 24 points clear at the top of the table, and a further five across the Copa de la Reina and Supercopa de Espana Femenina.

Before her Ballon d’Or success, Putellas had already been named UEFA Women’s Player of the Year for the second season in a row.

As already mentioned, her 28 goals in all competitions marked a personal improvement on the year before, even if Barcelona fell just short of retaining their Champions League title with defeat to Lyon in the final – she was still Champions League Midfielder of the Season and in Squad of the Season.

Having assumed the Barcelona captaincy, Putellas was also top scorer in the Copa de la Reina and scored five times in the Champions League group stage alone.

An ACL injury on the eve of Euro 2022 sadly left a huge ‘what if’ question unanswered, with the best player in the world unable to perform on a stage that was made for her.

A handful of particular moments stand out from Putellas.

In September 2021, she scored a four-minute hat-trick against Valencia, one of the fastest in Barcelona’s history, with the third goal a screamer from 40 yards.

The following month, Putellas was on another level as Barcelona made a very good Arsenal team look completely ordinary in the Champions League group stage, scoring in a 4-1 win.

Two iconic and defining moments came in the Champions League knockout stages as Barcelona hosted back-to-back world record crowds in excess of 91,000 at Camp Nou.

“I used to think that the Camp Nou was just for men. When I played there last year, it was the realisation of a dream I’d had since I was six years old,” Putellas said for The Players’ Tribune.

She was surprisingly quiet by her own standards in the first of the two occasions against Real Madrid, but still popped up with a goal as the Catalans successfully overturned a shock aggregate deficit and banged the drum with the fans at the side pitch after. But she was flawless with a 10/10 performance when Wolfsburg were the visitors to Camp Nou in the semi-final first leg, scoring twice to boot.

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Credit: 90min.com

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