The contract of Athletic Club’s Damaris Egurrola expires this summer, and Barça Femení are one of the many clubs interested in her. Would it be a good transfer?
The summer transfer window is around the corner, and with rumors heating up, it is reported that Barcelona are interested in signing a bright young talent from Athletic Club de Bilbao in the form of 20-year-old Damaris Egurrola. On June 30, the Spanish defensive midfielder’s contract will expire at the Basque club. The news made a little splash in Spanish media after her father’s statements to Cadena SER, explaining that her daughter “made the decision to leave Bilbao, and whatever happens, she will leave!”.
Damaris is a star whose work rate, support play, and ability to get into the opposition box has been crucial to Athletic Club for the last few seasons. She amassed a total of 20 league games in the 2019/2020 season, in which she played 1,717 minutes, scoring a couple of goals and recording an assist on the way. In addition to that, she has also played 210 minutes in the Copa de la Reina, taking the total to 1,927 minutes in all competitions so far this campaign – more than any other Athletic player except Maite Oroz.
She was an international in the youth categories of the Spanish national team and played together with Patricia Guijarro, Claudia Pina and Candela Andújar in the FIFA U–20 Women’s World Cup in 2018, where the team placed in second. Before that, she won the European Championship with the U–19 national team. She has recorded 113 games in total for Athletic Club and has scored five goals.
Key facts about Damaris
• She was born in Orlando, USA, but has lived in Spain since the age of seven
• She began playing football in the playground at her school in Guernika, in the Basque country
• She has played for Athletic Club since she was 14
• On her position: “I played on the wing when I was young, but I think they could see that I didn’t have much of a future there, so I switched to wide midfield, central defence, and then central midfield”
• Favourite players: Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernández and Silvia Meseguer
• Spain career | She first played for her country at U–17 level and was part of the sides that finished third at the FIFA U–17 Women’s World Cup in 2016, runners-up at the 2016 UEFA European U–17 Championship, and winners at the 2017 UEFA European U–19 Championship
• Twice voted “Dare to Shine” Player of the Match at the France 2018 U–20 World Cup
Damaris is a footballer of many qualities, both in her skill and in her physical trait. At first glance, her most noticeable attribute is her height of 5’9″, or 1.76m, which she uses to dominate the aerial game. She is very solid defensively and understands how to give stability to the team’s game. Barcelona loves to keep possession, and this is another strong quality Damaris has that Barcelona can rely on. In an interview to FIFA.COM, she said about it: “I’m not scared of the ball”.
Damaris Egurrola, during the 2018 U–20 World Cup final with Spain | Photo by Fred Tanneau / AFP via Getty Images
She also talked about her role as a box-to-box midfielder: “That’s what you have to do when you play in that position: try to support your teammates all over the pitch and work hard defensively, though I also try to get forward into attack”.
Based on some of her matches from this season, her positional awareness remains the key when defending against the build-up play. Damaris also has exceptional vision and range of passing when she finds space. If you look at the picture below, you can see her threading the ball between the defense. This move didn’t end in a goalscoring opportunity as the winger was too slow to react. If a player of Lieke Martens or Mariona‘s caliber had received that pass, it would have ended up as a threat in the final third.
Vision and range of passes – Damaris is naturally left-footed
Her movement off the ball is another excellent facet of her game. She moves quickly to be free of a marker and receive the ball. In the below picture, there wasn’t any threat, as the ball was out for a throw-in and the attacking players were closely marked. Damaris started her run from deep midfield to receive the pass and sent a diagonal cross across the face of the goal while the opponents were ball watching. She is very calculative when she is needed in the offense and specific about her runs in the attacking third, as she is aware of the counter-attack when her team losses the ball.
She is technically good when it comes to controlling the ball in tight spaces, a quality that often describes a well-rounded player. She posses qualities similar to that of Patri Guijarro, who anchors the midfield for Barcelona. She can evade defenders with delicate touches and vision to get the ball rolling forward.
Her performance against Barcelona at San Mamés is something to look into. She was man-marking Alexia Putellas at times, the player who creates the most in the build-up play for Barcelona. Damaris effectively shut down spaces for Alexia and Aitana Bonmatí in the final third by pressuring them and making them uncomfortable whenever they got on the ball.
How she would suit Barcelona’s set-ups
In a 4–3–3 formation, Damaris would be best suited as a pivot. Unfortunately, this is the position where Patri Guijarro does very well. If Damaris is played along with Patri in the XI, there are three ways to combat the situation.
1. Playing Patri as a creative midfielder and Damaris as a defensive midfielder
Patri has outstanding qualities as an attacker and needs to be played in an advanced position to bring out the best of her. In this case, either one of Aitana, Mariona or Vicky Losada would be benched, since Alexia is untouchable. The formation remains the same with Damaris acting as a pivot.
2. Playing Damaris as a creative midfielder
This is the complicated case because, like Alexia, Damaris is also left-footed. There isn’t a way to play two left-footed midfielders in the midfield from a tactical point of view, leaving one of either Damaris or Alexia to be in a starting XI.
3. 4–2–3–1 | Double pivot
Damaris would suit Barcelona best if they deploy a double pivot with Patri and Damaris holding the midfield, giving the license for the wing-backs to attack in front. Nevertheless, this would not suit the Positional Play football that Barcelona want to execute. It can be used as a tactical decision for a particular match, but it realistically couldn’t be a consistent tactical setup at Barça.
Things she would need to improve
Damaris is still a young player with a lot of potential for growth, but there are some things she would need to work on before becoming a blaugrana. For example, she remains out of position sometimes, tangling in between opposition players instead of freeing herself to receive the ball. Barca thrives with the mobility of the players. We have seen them constantly switching positions and finding space to receive and distribute the ball. Damaris is solid positionally, but she would have to be positionally versatile as well.
Barça’s work rate this season has been phenomenal. They press high and get the ball very quickly. Athletic’s style of play is a bit different when it comes to pressing. Damaris isn’t quite a workhorse when it comes to pressing.
For free, 20-year-old Damaris Egurrola would undoubtedly be one of the bargains of the summer | Photo by Edu Del Fresno via Imago
Egurrola is a player who always strives to improve, and she spends her free time watching her performances over and over again. If Barcelona is able to pull off this transfer, it would be a bargain considering her talent, her experience, her age, and her insistence in improving. She would definitely fit into the team and would be the most suitable replacement if Kheira Hamraoui leaves as rumored, on account of her position and comparable height. Damaris would finally have the chance to play in the Champions League and could learn from some of the best players in women’s football.
However, her playing time would be limited considering Barcelona has an abundance of talent in midfield with Patri, Aitana Bonmatí, Vicky Losada and Alexia Putellas already occupying the center. If Damaris ends up at Barça, there would be additional complications with managing her playing time, as she is young and needs opportunities to play in order to develop properly. Just like every other Barça Femení fan, we hope the board won’t sign players just for the sake of signing. Instead, we hope they concentrate on much-needed defensive improvements, ideally by promoting or buying a centerback and a wingback to bolster the squad.
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.