Alexia Putellas’ Barcelona contract negotiations falter after Spain call-up dispute

Alexia Putellas’ contract renewal negotiations with Barcelona have hit a major stumbling block, with the club angered by her decision to accept a Spain call-up despite recent injury.

Putellas has not played for Barca since November 14 and the full extent of her injury has been difficult to diagnose.

At the end of December she underwent keyhole surgery on her left knee to try and establish what was wrong. Various medical reports indicated that everything was fine and any suggestion of another anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) problem was quickly ruled out. But she continued to feel discomfort and has still not returned to action.

Both Putellas, 30, and Barca had recently hinted that they were beginning to reach common ground in contract talks, but now the club has been left annoyed by her decision to return to playing with Spain, when she has not been cleared to do so by the team’s doctors.

The two-time Ballon d’Or winner’s contract expires at the end of the season, but her intention has always been to stay at the club. She feels valued in the team that has helped her grow, but she also wanted to claim a financial improvement in line with the status she has achieved in recent years.

Barca’s latest offer did not fully meet what was being requested, with the explanation that the club’s financial situation made it difficult to do so. But the offer did involve doubling Putellas’ salary to make her the highest paid player in the squad. Putellas currently still has the same contract she had before winning her first Ballon d’Or and the financial figure she would settle for is close to €1million a year.

Barca also only offered a two-year renewal, when Putellas had requested a three-year deal.

But despite differences between the two sides, it seemed that an understanding would soon be reached.

“She wants to stay and we want her to stay within the parameters of the club,” Barcelona president Joan Laporta said on Catalan radio station RAC1 in early February.

Now things look to have changed following Putellas’ decision to join the Spain camp for this week’s UEFA Women’s Nations League finals. Spain play Netherlands in Seville on Friday, with the winners to play either France or Germany.

On February 12, outgoing Barcelona manager Jonatan Giraldez said Putellas would “not be able to return before the (international break)”. He added: “I won’t put a date on it, but she is training well and the sensations are good. Alexia has started to play but we don’t want to take any risks.”

Three days later, Putellas appeared on Montse Tome’s squad list, something that contradicted what Giraldez said and annoyed the club.

Barca said they had sent reports to the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) explaining that she was not fit to play. This was also confirmed by Giraldez in a press conference after Barca’s game against Atletico Madrid on Sunday.

Putellas spoke to the RFEF and asked to be called up so she could continue with her individualised work there with high intensity training sessions suitable to the recovery phase she is in.

She felt that with much of the Barca squad leaving during the international break she would not be able to continue working at the level she wanted to. Only seven training sessions were planned over the two-week break.

According to sources close to Putellas, she warned Barca of her decision, but the club say they knew nothing about it. They considered that a pact with the national team had been broken and were very angry with the player.

There have already been similar cases at the club that have not ended well.

Last December, Barca defender Irene Paredes was hospitalised with tonsillitis and was ruled out for more than 15 days. Tome still included her in her Spain squad, despite her not having played the last few games with Barcelona, and she then came back with a thigh muscle injury.

The RFEF say they will not take any risks with Putellas, and that she will be examined by their medical team.

But her relationship with Barca has certainly been left strained. They are upset with the player and say that this could influence her renewal.

Time will tell if they manage to find a resolution or if this incident should prove to be a definitive breakdown between one of the women’s game’s household names and her club.

 (Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

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