Our Guest Author: Wiktoria Kornat
Despite the lack of first-team minutes, everyone at La Masía and who has watched her regularly has no doubts: Claudia Pina is a future star of Barça Femení.
Being honest, writing an article about such a young player is a bit of a challenging. Previous articles have mostly been about players already experienced on the pitch, about players who have already won quite a lot of titles in their career. Meanwhile, Claudia Pina doesn’t have a lush football career (yet), hence writing about her may be a bit more difficult.
Nevertheless, she is already a player who shows great maturity and experience on the pitch. This may sound a bit paradoxical because she is only 18 years old, but her playing on the pitch is dripping with maturity. Claudia Pina is a great young talent of Spanish football and I think that many people aren’t aware of this. I noticed Pina for the first time when she was still playing for Spain U17 team. It only took me a moment to realise that there was material for a world-class player right in front of my eyes.
Claudia Pina was formerly a futsal player, before being discovered by Espanyol’s scouts. She joined their youth team in 2011 at the age of 11. She moved to Barcelona’s La Masía from Espanyol in 2013. In Barcelona, she began to stand out. Because how else can you describe Pina’s achievement. In her second season, she helped the team to win the youth league championship by scoring 100 goals in her 20 appearances. 100 goals, in 20 apps, in only one single season.
After proving herself as a technically gifted player and a natural goalscorer she quickly progressed through the different ranks of the youth team. Her impressive achievement didn’t go unnoticed, she was called up to the senior team’s squad for pre-season. Pina made her first official appearance for the senior team in January 2018. Being only 16 years and 5 months old at the time, she set the record as the youngest player to have ever played for a senior Barça team in an official match.
Claudia Pina received her first call-up for the national U16 team at the age of 14. In September 2016, she was invited for the first time to play for Spanish U17 national team in a UEFA tournament in Příbram, Czech Republic, where she scored five goals in her debut match. She later played her first official game for the Spanish U17 national team in 2016’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Jordan. She scored a goal in her first appearance against the hosts. Spain ended third, and Pina finished the tournament with two goals on her account.
Pina was part of the Spanish team during the 2017 UEFA Women’s Under–17 Championship held in the Czech Republic. Spain finished as runner-ups, losing to Germany in the final after the penalty shootout. The teenager scored two goals again during this championship and was chosen in the Team of the Tournament. On 2 October 2017, she scored eight times as Spain beat Montenegro 22–0 in a Women’s U17 Euro qualifier. At the end of 2017, her name was announced as the top UEFA national-team goalscoring player among both female and male players, scoring 16 goals during the year.
It is with the Spanish national team where Claudia Pina has been making a name for herself | Photo by Damien Meyer / AFP via Getty Images
In November 2018, during the 2018 FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay, she showed everyone what she could do. Spain didn’t have much trouble getting through the group stage. Two confidently won matches: 4–0 against South Korea – Pina scored twice – and a 5–0 victory against Canada – Pina with one goal. The Spanish side drew 1–1 against Colombia, but 7 points gave them the first place in the group and the ticket to the knockout stage.
In the quarter-finals, Spain played a match against a very demanding North Korea team. In regular time, the match ended in 1–1, with Claudia scoring her team’s goal. Spain won the game after the penalty shootout. In the semi-final, Spain defeated New Zealand by 2–0, with Pina getting one of the goals.
In the final, Claudia Pina summed up her great tournament for her national team and for herself individually. She led Spain to victory by scoring both goals in a 2–1 win against Mexico. Spain were thus claimed world champions. Pina scored 7 goals during the tournament, won a silver shoe and was chosen the best player of the tournament.
And this leads us to an achievement that cannot be skipped. Pina’s goalscoring record at youth level for Spain’s women across age groups: 37 goals in 39 appearances. A star is born.
During 2019/2020 Reto Iberdrola season (the second level of league competition for Spanish women’s football), Claudia Pina started in 16 games for Barça Femení B. She scored 15 goals from the 1,392 minutes played. She contributed to 24.6% of the blaugranas‘ total of 61 goals. Although she hasn’t got too many minutes to play in the first team, with the reserves she has been a key player and her impact on the team’s achievements is priceless.
As mentioned above, Pina scored almost a quarter of her team’s goals. These numbers are more than respectable. But with the senior team, Pina has only played 228 minutes across all competitions: 65 in the Champions League, 20 in Copa de la Reina, 68 in the Copa Catalunya and 75 in the Primera División.
Claudia Pina was a goalscorer in the first-team 2019/20 preseason | Photo by FC Barcelona
It is worth mentioning that Claudia Pina scored two goals in the preseason friendly game versus Arsenal Women’s team. The game was held at Arsenal’s Meadow Park in August 2019, and Pina entered the pitch as a substitute to score twice, one of these being a stunner.
The Spanish wonderkid
Claudia Pina is definitely the future of Spanish women’s football. Despite her young age, she is already a forward with great technique and dribbling ability. I guess we can call her a wonderkid. The Barcelona forward has composure and confidence to show her playing ability. She has an eye for goal – you can’t learn it, you are just born with it. There is no doubt that Pina will mark her regular presence in Barcelona’s first team sooner or latter. It is a matter of when, rather than if. Time will tell.
But Claudia Pina has already convinced those watching her with her first touch of the ball during the U17 Women’s World Cup 2018. She has a high sense of awareness and she always searches for free spaces on the pitch. For such a young age, she has an amazing ability to find herself in the penalty area – she is a two-footed striker with an impressive nose for goal. The ball is just looking for her every time.
Such a skill is not obvious at her age. This must be emphasised because she is young and already has it with her, which is very special. She is not experienced because she is just at the beginning of her career, but she already has such skills. On the pitch, she is very composed, she has such inner peace and she doesn’t panic. Claudia Pina is not afraid to take responsibility on her shoulders and this once again proves her great maturity.
Youngsters are in the process of learning certain things and football behaviours, and they are not veterans of football yet. Therefore, they are just in that process of forming themselves as self-confident and aware players. But Claudia Pina, having shown such mentioned features in 2018 during that U17 World Cup, showed that she was ahead of her time at only 16.
Let the confirmation of these words be her first goal in the final against Mexico during such tournament. She controlled the ball in the penalty area very precisely, quickly moved it to her left foot and hit it from the ground placing the ball in the back of the net. It may seem nothing special, but for such things, with a match of this rank and with such pressure, you need to have confidence, you need to have nerves of steel. She has it.
Let’s take one more moment to talk about this 2018 U17 World Cup, and focus on the first match against the Republic of Korea. In Spain’s first goal, Claudia took an advantage of an opponent’s error and scored to exhibit her pitch intelligence. No hesitation, just an eye for goal. In the second goal, she got the ball in the penalty area from the right wing and, despite being outnumbered, she seized their mistake again of leaving her too much space to hit a rocket straight into the top right corner of the goal.
Youthful joy of playing football
What is extremely important in the context of young players who are just entering the great world of football is the joy of playing the game. Claudia Pina knows something about it. Whoever has followed her performances must have seen the goal she scored against Espanyol in January 2017. This goal trended across the Internet. Claudia Pina took the ball from the halfway line and dribbled through four players, before making a powerful strike from the edge of the box.
A manifestation of her indisputable football genius, but also of the fact that football is not only about tactics, schemes, statistics. Apart from that, football is freedom in self-expression. She just took the ball and was carried away by the moment when, thanks to her confidence, she found the way to the goal in a situation in which many would not even take the risk to try.
Claudia has all her future ahead of her | Photo by FC Barcelona
Pina has that ease, calm and, above everything, she has this youthful fantasy and joy. It is pretty visible that she truly enjoys the game, she likes to have the ball next to her foot, but at the same time, she is also a team player. Claudia Pina regularly plays with Barcelona Femení B as a number 10, which means she is a playmaker or an attacking midfielder. But what is important to mention is that for her national team she operates mainly as number 9 or false 9.
The Catalan is very intelligent, and the fact that she can play as centre-forward or as a central attacking midfielder certainly works in her favour. This definitely makes her a universal and versatile footballer, and this is undoubtedly important in the context of her further football development. Her movements on the pitch are thoughtful and harmonious, and it is delightful to see her constantly looking for free spaces on the pitch.
Claudia positions herself, receives the ball, passes it back and immediately frees herself to show up in a position to create chances. She has the positional awareness and the ability to quickly assess the situation. At such a young age, it really makes her unique.
The engine of the team
At Barça Femení B, Claudia the engine of the team. She is so simple in her actions on the pitch, but at the same time so creative. In the match against CD Parquesol, she also showed her versatility. In the 8th minute, she started the goal action of her team and, a few seconds later, she finished it. She moved away from her offensive position and dropped down to Barça’s half to get the ball. She received a pass from the defender, deceived the opponent with a feint, freed herself from the rival, and with one pass she sped the team’s action before immediately running after it into the opposing penalty box. The ball got perfectly to where she was in the penalty area, and Claudia Pina, who had started the action, also finished it by scoring the goal.
Pina also has a feature that the best football virtuosos have: assessing the situation before getting the ball. Pina, while expecting a pass, looks over her shoulder to assess the position of her opponents. She is a step ahead of the rivals because she knows exactly what to do with the ball before she even gets it.
Of course, it can be said that this is nothing special, but, again, if she already has such good attributes at such young age, then in a few years, when she gains experience, she will be a football maestro. We can only follow her development and wait until she reaches the top.
The future is bright
Claudia Pina is a young, promising talent and, hopefully, no coach or team that has or will have this girl beneath their wings in the future will waste her talent. At the age of 18, she is a very mature footballer already, and if she can develop as she should, there is no doubt that she will be a world-class footballer.
Pina is the type of player whose actions on the pitch can be watched with great pleasure. The irreproachable technique, joy, sense of awareness and teamwork are what characterise her. Are we looking at the future captain of the first Barcelona team? I don’t know, probably yes, but what I do know for sure is that a star is being born right in front of our eyes. Let’s hope that thanks to hard work and continuous development, she will reach the top. Step by step, she will climb to the top of the mountain, from which she will watch the world alongside the other best football players in the world. She is the future of women’s football.