Antonio Banderas’ “greatest" 60th birthday gift was recovering from coronavirus.

Nicole Kimpel and Antonio Banderas

Nicole Kimpel and Antonio Banderas

The ‘Pain and Glory’ actor contracted the respiratory disease last August, weeks before he reached the milestone birthday, and though his girlfriend, Nicole Kimpel, ensured they marked the special day, it didn’t feel right to do anything lavish.

She said: “We celebrated because every year of life is something to celebrate.

“But this wasn’t really the year for parties. The greatest gift was his quick recovery.”

Nicole admitted she was “frightened” about how ill Antonio could have got with COVID-19 due to his age, and is perplexed as to why she managed to stay clear of the disease, despite being in close contact with her partner.

She said: “We suffered the same doubts as everybody who caught the virus.

“At the start, you’re frightened because you don’t know how badly you’ll be affected.

“In Antonio’s case, his main symptoms were severe muscle aches and fatigue, and he bore up well He’s a very strong man and he’s in great physical shape.

“It’s a difficult virus to decipher – you don’t know why some people get it and not others. We were in close contact because I was caring for him, but I didn’t catch it.”

While she lives in Spain away from her family, Nicole insisted being with the ‘Puss in Boots’ star is all that matters.

She said: “I miss my family because I don’t spend as much time with them but my place is at Antonio’s side and that makes up for everything.

“Home is where my love is, which is what most defines me, so my home is here in Malaga.”

And Nicole insisted she isn’t in love with Antonio the movie star.

Speaking to HELLO! magazine, she said: “I’m in love with Jose Antonio Dominguez, which is Antonio’s real name.

“It’s the person behind the actor who I fell in love with, who I’m still in love with and who I know, every day when I wake up, that I want to share my life with.”

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