Alexia Putellas: How big a loss is her absence to Euro 2022 and Spain?

By Emma SandersBBC Sport
The rise of Barcelona's Alexia Putellas

She is regularly on the front cover of leading Spanish newspapers, has had over 90,000 fans at the Nou Camp chanting her name simultaneously, is on the back of almost every Barcelona fan's shirt and is the current Ballon d'Or recipient - but Alexia Putellas will not be at Euro 2022.

England and Austria will open the tournament at a sell-out Old Trafford on Wednesday evening but many fans are still digesting the news that came from Spain 24 hours earlier.

Putellas, currently the world's best player, suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in Spain's training on Tuesday and will miss the tournament.

The Barcelona captain is the face of Spanish women's football and was tipped by many to be one of the leading stars at this summer's Euros.

'It is a massive blow to the tournament'

Alexia Putellas at Nou Camp
Alexia Putellas captained Barcelona and scored against Real Madrid in front of a record crowd at the Nou Camp in the Champions League last season

"It is the worst possible news on the eve of the tournament," England and Everton midfielder Izzy Christiansen told BBC Sport, while Spanish football journalist David Menayo described it as "a jug of cold water" thrown over his country.

Billed as the biggest European Championship in women's football history, the prospect of the Ballon d'Or winner not being in it was "devastating" for fans, Christiansen said.

"The Ballon d'Or winner, the most incredible player to watch, is not going to be performing. It's devastating for all of the fans coming over, not just in Spain, but all the nations," she added.

"You want to enjoy and watch players of that calibre do their thing. It's a huge loss to the tournament and for the wider impact she has in Barcelona and in her own country.

"A journalist spoke this week about how they had never heard one female player's name chanted so loudly and so prominently by fans than Alexia Putellas'. That gives you an indication of how big of an impact she has had."

England's record appearance-maker Fara Williams told BBC Sport it was "no surprise" Putellas has become a "big star and a world-recognised name" given her recent form for Barcelona.

"The way in which the Barcelona team has played, has caught attention. When you watch them, she is one of the standout players," she said.

"It's a massive blow. We are already missing some big-name players and it's those who you want to see in the tournament to showcase the women's game at its best."

How much will it affect Spain?

Spanish front pages react to Alexia Putellas' injury
Marca is among the Spanish newspapers to react to Alexia Putellas injury, saying '23 Alexias for one dream'

Led by Putellas, Spain prepared for the tournament as one of the bookies' favourites.

The bulk of the squad is made up of stars from Barcelona, the club that won the Champions League in 2021 and reached a second successive final this season.

And while the squad remains packed full of quality, have their chances of winning the tournament been dampened by Putellas' injury?

"It is a massive loss. It is absolutely huge and it is devastating she is not playing. She is so key to everything that Spain do," said Christiansen.

"They have a clear identity in the way they play but so much of that is reliant on somebody taking the ball in the way Putellas does in difficult areas under pressure. She controls the overloading which helps break down teams.

"I think it dampens Spain's chances of progressing throughout the tournament. It will have a huge impact on the team. This is the worst possible case for Spain but they have to find a way to move forward without her."

Christiansen said it would be an opportunity for one of Putellas' team-mates to step up but Williams highlighted that they will need to recover mentally before Spain's opening game against Finland on Friday.

"Spain were a lot stronger with Putellas. I always felt they might have had an earlier exit in the tournament anyway but it certainly weakens them without Putellas," Williams said.

"You become a family at major tournaments so it will have an impact on the squad - no matter who it is. It will be a tough one to take and I think Spain will struggle. At least they have a few days to mentally recover from it."

Spanish journalist Menayo, who writes for national newspaper Marca, said Spain had gone from "being a favourite to being a candidate".

"Alexia is a decisive player, but also a key partner within the group. Spain have a good team and great players but obviously they have lost a lot," he said.

"You can win a game of chess without the queen but it's very difficult. The players will have to rebuild themselves emotionally. If they manage to beat Finland and get a good result against Germany, the horizon can stop looking so black."