Predominantly a full-back, 18-year-old Jana Fernández has been gaining much attention in recent times and is set to have a bright future at Barça Femení. We analyse her short career so far, style as a player and potential.
FC Barcelona is known all over the world for the success achieved by its talents raised at home. Cantera is the term used to identify the youth sections of Spanish clubs, Barcelona’s in particular being named the iconic La Masía. The four girl’s youth teams at FC Barcelona’s academy are some of the best in the world for women’s youth development. Older, more established senior players like Vicky Losada and Leila Ouahabi spent their time with the youth teams in the late 2000s and early 2010s. More recently, Patri Guijarro and Aitana Bonmatí, who are both twenty-two years of age, are already a part of the first team and regulars for the Spain women’s national team.
This current group of B-team players could be the best the club has ever seen. There is first-team level talent at nearly every position. That being said, there has been a lot of talk about the possibility of a return to Barcelona from 21-year-old full-back Ona Batllé, a La Masía player during six years until 2017 and that has announced that she will be leaving Levante this season.
Batllé has clear talent and her signing would be major for Barcelona’s defensive issues, but amongst all the talk, the talent of current B-team full-back Jana Fernández Velasco has flown under the radar. Days ago, the 18-year-old Catalan who has progressed through the sections of La Masía finally signed her first professional contract for the club, a sign of better things to come for the future of homegrown talent at FC Barcelona.
Born on 18 February 2002 in Catalonia, Jana Fernández’s passion for this sport started very early, at the age of six she was already playing in the club of her town, Sant Esteve Sesrovires. She was asked at the age of six to choose between jazz and football – she made her choice without looking back.
Signing for FC Barcelona
Her evolution led her to be picked up by FC Barcelona, where she played in the youth-cadet category as a defender under Kiko Meléndez and Irene del Rio in the 2014/15 term. She humbly grew as a player and, since arriving at the club, she has constantly exceeded expectations.
Development and success with Spain’s youth teams
Jana has been growing with Spain’s youth national teams for years. For the Spanish youth teams she has been put in the centre-back position, but when she became a B-team regular in 2017 she was given more freedom to be in her natural position as a right-back.
Her first experience with Spain came with the U–17s in 2017, when she was fifteen years old. A year after her debut, she played a role in the Spanish team who won the 2018 UEFA Women’s Under–17 Championship, the fourth Spanish side to do so. Her talent, maturity as a player and leadership qualities didn’t go unnoticed by the senior club staff, and she was invited to the United States for preseason with the Barcelona senior squad some months later. Her first team debut happened not soon after at the 2018 Copa Catalunya, which was also her first title with the senior squad.
Jana Fernández is progressing at a steady pace at Barcelona | Photo by Pedro Salado
In December of the same year, she joined Barcelona teammate Claudia Pina in Uruguay, where they both helped Spain to glory as the first ever Spanish squad to win any women’s youth World Cup. When Jana went to the Camp Nou with her father as a child, she could have never have imagined that she would become a world champion and be honoured for her achievement in the same stadium.
She said the following when interviewed by Ellas Son Fútbol after ending the preseason in the United States: “I felt emotion. I have always been very culé. When I was little I would see Alexia [Putellas] and others play, and I was very excited. And, obviously, to take the first step in a country like the USA with all my idols…crazy, of course, a dream fulfilled. It makes you nervous, but I was also really motivated and excited. That didn’t stop me from enjoying it 100% like I did. Training next to Alexia Putellas or Mapi impacts you. Logically there is a difference with the B, especially in the intensity, because at Barça we work the same details of the game, but the intensity is much higher”.
When she was asked about what could she bring to the team, she answered: “I can bring youth, desire and enthusiasm, the illusion that we little girls have to take this great leap. In the field, speed. I come from Barça, where they teach you a lot of tactics, to treat the ball well (tiki-taka). Off the field, we all contribute to something that makes us a great team”.
Jana’s commitment to the club
It’s never an easy task to succeed at Barcelona. It requires a lot of determination, commitment and hard work through your time at the club, especially if you are coming through the ranks of La Masía. We have seen quite a lot of players, both men and women, opting out of La Masía and pursuing their careers elsewhere when they can’t find minutes with the senior team. Players like Ona Batllé, Laia Aleixandri and Berta Pujadas in 2017, and Helena Barco, Paula Gutiérrez and Aida Esteve this summer, all took this route.
Only a few have both the quality and loyalty to get into the first team in their early years, and players like Aitana Bonmati, Melanie Serrano and Vicky Losada are all examples of it. As for Jana, she has the right attitude and strong mentality to showcase it for Barça Femeni’s senior side.
“I am a very demanding person, very hard-working and I don’t stop until I get what I want. I am not conformist and every day I try to push myself to the limit. For example, I’m right-footed, but I try to work the left a lot in order to achieve a balance and become more complete as a player”
on how she sees herself as a person and footballer
Throughout her career so far, she has been known for her hard work, sacrifice and a constant drive to better herself. She will never back down from a challenge. Even though she didn’t get any extended opportunities to play for the first team this past season, she believed in herself. Players tend to feel hard done when they never have chances to play at the highest level. They tend to look for opportunities elsewhere. That’s not the case for Jana Fernández: she stuck with the club she loved and she believed she will succeed soon. That belief is what brought her to sign her first professional contract with FC Barcelona Femení.
“I started and continued in football because I really enjoy it. It was a way to forget about everything else, to enjoy, and to grow. I was lucky that I was good at it and that has given me more opportunities, but if I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t continue”
Jana treats her teammates like her family. She believes that strong bonds created within the team and the emotions experienced in the field make her connected to them.
“As you enjoy yourself, you achieve milestones and objectives that you had not previously set for yourself”
On July 21, 2018, Jana Fernández received the award for Best Athlete of Sant Esteve Sesrovires in the Sports Night Awards, which are held every year to recognise the most outstanding athletes in her town.
After her success at the U–17 World Cup, she got her first call-up for the first team squad. She made her official debut for Barcelona Femení when she was substituted in at the 58th minute during their 7–0 win against Madrid CFF. Furthermore, Jana Fernández and Claudia Pina were invited to watch the Barça men’s match against Tottenham in the Champions League and were honoured at Camp Nou at half-time for winning the U–17 World Cup. In fact, they were the first women’s players from La Masía to win a youth category world championship.
Jana Fernández is known for her attacking play, pace, stamina and technical skills. She plays a significant role in linking up with the forwards as part of the team’s attacking play. The team relies upon Jana to track back and tackle successfully at the back on any counter-attack by the opposition team. This allows the midfield players and forwards to play high up the pitch, rounding out the counter-pressing strategy for Barcelona Femení B.
The position that highlights Jana’s skills in this season for Barça B is both her natural full-back position and a more advanced winger position. She covers the back in the defensive phase, often spreading out onto the right wing where Pina or Bruna Vilamala become the perfect finishers for her short passes in the final third. At times, Jana sends the ball to the wing, gets inside to the middle, and helps with the play in the centre.
A week ago Jana Fernández signed her contract renewal with Barcelona for three more seasons, as well as assuring that she will be in the first team dynamics next course
She is versatile defensively as well and can play both as a centre-back and as a full-back. The important aspect that we admire noticing these young players is their adaptability to operate in different positions. For example, Candela Andújar can play as a right winger in attack and can also be deployed as a full-back. Attacker Claudia Pina can be utilised as a playmaker, while Patri Guijarro can be put in any position of the pitch.
This is the reason why Barcelona are counting on the La Masía products, as they know the system and they know the roles in each position. To play for Barça, players need to be aware of the movements of the teammates and the tactical adaptability to switch positions during the course of the game. Jana Fernández is a player who excels with this understanding of Barça’s playing style and can become a great full-back if she has patience and determination to succeed at the Catalan club.
Humility, love for football, enjoyment, perseverance, effort and, of course, talent: this is how the story of a true champion is forged. That’s how Jana Fernández made a name for herself in the youth categories of Spain and Barcelona. She was rewarded for these qualities with a professional contract to play for FC Barcelona.
“We must continue working and continue learning. I take it with great enthusiasm. I hope we achieve a lot of success, that we fight for everything and that we are very lucky”
on her contract extension
The current group of players in Claudia Pina, Jana, Carla Armengol and Laia Codina are just four of the many young blaugrana promises. Barcç are stamping their authority on the importance of renewing players from La Masía this season. Pina, Codina, Candela, Gemma Font and Armengol all renewed their contracts, and soon after came the much-anticipated extensions of Jana and Bruna Vilamala.
Barça continues with the strategic framework of giving continuity to those players from the lower categories with high potential. With Barcelona having a hold on elite young gems like Bruna Vilamala, Jana Fernández, Ariadna Mingueza, Noah Bezis and Laura Coronado, the future of La Masía again looks bright for Barcelona.
FCB Femeni’s January Player of the Month: Alexia Putellas
Another month down, another couple of wins for FCB Femeni. The team is in smooth sailing towards their second consecutive league title with an otherworldly wins-only season, including 73 goals scored and only 3 conceded. January was a rough month for the Catalan team, however, as they faced multiple match cancellations due to both a freak snowstorm and COVID-19 positives alongside an early Supercopa Femenina exit. Aside from the many downs, there were plenty of positives. FCB Femeni played a history-making match at the Camp Nou, the team’s first competitive match in the iconic stadium, and they dominated in a resounding 5-0 win against local rivals Espanyol Femeni. Later in the month, they smashed Rayo Vallecano Femenino 7-0, and at the end of January, they won the second-ever El Clasico Femenino against Real Madrid, scoring 4 at the Estadi Johan Cruyff.
Given the many iconic moments in this month alone, it was never going to be an easy choice. Plenty of players showed up big this month. Asisat Oshoala seems to have returned to form after a rough few months, scoring four goals and having many quality performances aside from her goalscoring. Melanie Serrano has had one of her best seasons in recent memory, and her performances this month were no exception. But if there was one player who came in clutch and made history, it was Alexia Putellas. She started the year strongly by being the first-ever woman to score a competitive goal at the Camp Nou. Her free kick in the dying minutes of the Supercopa Femenina saved Barcelona from going out in regular time against Atletico Madrid. At the end of the month, she drew first blood in the second-ever Clasico, imposing herself against Los Blancos with relative ease. Aside from her goalscoring, she once again had multiple dominant performances in terms of her assisting, passing, and attacking play. Once again, Alexia Putellas is deservedly our player of the month for January.
Primera Iberdrola – RCD Espanyol Femeni (Camp Nou) (6/1/2021): 5-0
• Minutes: 90
• 1 Goal
January 6th marked a historic day for Barcelona as they entered the Camp Nou pitch for the first time after 50 years. The Blaugranas started the game on a bright note with Alexia dictating the play. At the 4th minute of the game, Alexia had a tame shot at the goal following a cut-back from Melanie Serrano. As the shots racked up in the beginning minutes, it looked like Barca would follow this season’s pattern of scoring an early goal. However, Barca were devoid of any clear cut chances after that, and Espanyol started to grow defensively as time went on.
The second big chance fell to Alexia Putellas in the 43rd minute after a cutback this time from Patri following a beautiful couple of moves inside the box. Again, Alexia’s shot was too weak with her right foot and it found the hands of the goalkeeper. However, Alexia made up for her misses when the turning point of the game came in the 45th minute. During a stoppage-time corner, Alexia raced past the marker to head the ball into the far corner of the net, giving Barca some much-needed breathing room going into the half-time. Barca cruised to victory in the second half with a scoreline of 5-0 after goals from Melanie Serrano, Marta Torrejon, Lieke Martens, and Ana Maria Crnogocevic, which ended any hopes of a comeback for the local rivals.
Spanish Supercopa Femenino: Semi Finals – Atletico Madrid Femenino (A) (13/1/2021): 1-1 ( 3-1 PT)
• Minutes: 120
• Goals: 1
Barca played Atléti in the Spanish Supercup semifinal on January 13th. Both the teams were going into the game after Spain’s freak snowstorm, “Filomena,” canceled all the league’s Madrid-based weekend matches. Atlético Madrid announced the re-hiring of manager Dani Gonzalez on the eve of the matchday, sparking a lot of excitement going into the game. The game followed a similar pattern to that of the one played in August when Barça defeated Las Colchoneras to clinch a spot in the UWCL semifinals. As expected, Atleti defended with 9 women at the back and played long balls to Ludmila whenever they had a chance to counter.
Even though Barcelona dominated the game, they failed to score and paid for their lack of effectiveness when Atléti were awarded a penalty in the 66th minute. Merel van Dongen then converted it to give Madrid the advantage. It looked like everything was lost until the 90th minute when Alexia was brought down at the edge of the box. Although it looked like Barcelona was going to lose in regular time, the midfielder had other ideas and took matters into her own hands. Alexia scored a sublime free-kick past a diving Hedvig Lindahl who, until then, was keeping Barca at bay for 90 excellent minutes. In the end, it was not enough for Barca as they paid the price for not converting their chances, also being kept down by some harsh refereeing decisions not going their way. The Catalans ended up losing to Atléti on penalty kicks and were knocked out of the tournament, thereby missing their first possible title of the year.
Primera Iberdrola – Rayo Vallecano (H) (20/1/2021): 7-0
• Minutes: 72
• Goals: 2
FCB Femeni came into the game after their tough semifinal loss to Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Supercup, hoping to get back into their rhythm. Barça scored an early goal inside 5 minutes after Alexia’s header was parried into the feet of Jennifer Hermoso. After the first goal, it was one-way traffic for the home side as they punctured Rayo’s defense with another 3 goals- Alexia being the catalyst of each of them.
Alexia scored her first goal of the game following Melanie’s cross. She stayed in position and gracefully chipped over the keeper’s head to double Barca’s lead. She remained a key part of the midfield in tracking back and dictating the entirety of the half and scored her second goal following a well-worked team move. In the 40th minute of the game, Asisat Oshoala was sent through by Jennifer Hermoso, and Asisat teed up Caroline Graham-Hansen to score from close range. However, Hansen’s shot was blocked and the ball fell into the path of Alexia for an easy tap-in. Barça easily swept past mid-table Rayo to remain top of the table after the matchday.
Primera Iberdrola – Real Madrid (H) (31/1/2021): 4-1
• Minutes: 87
• Goals: 1
• Second Assists:1
Barça faced their new league rival Real Madrid Femenino in the last game of the month, 11 days after their match against Rayo due to multiple match cancellations. This was expected to be a totally different game compared to their first encounter, as Los Blancos have grown into the league and were occupying the second-place position at the time. All the match previews indicated that Real Madrid were in great form, recording only 3 losses in 15 games, with a much more balanced and cohesive team than their first game against the Blaugranas. Additionally, if the team from Spain’s capital won at the Estadi Johan Cruyff, they would’ve gone to the top of the league.
The match started with Real Madrid and Barcelona both going on the offense and trying to assert themselves. Despite Madrid entering the match bravely and attacking well, Barcelona scored first just 14 minutes into the match. Once again, it was the captain, Alexia Putellas, who kicked it off for the Catalan team. Alexia was intuitive in collecting the ball at the edge of the box and scoring a blistering strike to the top left of the net that Misa Rodriguez struggled to get a hand on. From then, it was a similar pattern as the first Clásico, and Barça advanced to a 3 goal lead by the end of the first half. The match proved that Madrid’s women have improved a lot, but they were never a match to the 2019-20 champions as Barca ran out winners 4-1 at the end of full-time.
When Alexia is fit and firing, there isn’t a way to stop her from creating chances and scoring goals. After her breakout out season last year, she’s continued her form and is having yet another world-class season. Alexia only continues to get better and better, and with a lot of important competitions in the next few months, her performances will be integral to the success of the club.