For her longevity, belief, devotion and passion, 30-year-old Melanie Serrano is one of the greatest legends of Barça Femení.
Melanie Serrano, the rock figure of Barça Femení, completed her sixteenth season at the club this past month. Easing into her thirties and seasoned with an untouchable 448 appearances, the defender continues writing more golden pages in the history of Barça Femení. Melanie is a fighter who has fought with tooth and nail to make the women’s section of FC Barcelona heard loud with a roar.
Are there any female footballers who have remained loyal for sixteen years to the club where they started their career? If we consider men’s football, there are plenty of players like Lionel Messi, Steven Gerrard and Ryan Giggs who have that type of loyalty. Unfortunately, devotion to one club in women’s football is much more difficult, due to the frequent issues of instability, the financial struggles the players face and the limited budget the clubs are offered.
Melanie went against the standard and remained with Barcelona through thick and thin, from when they were relegated to the Second Division to when they reached their first UEFA Women’s Champions League final 11 years later. There was a chance that Barça Femení would be dissolved when they were relegated in 2006, but Melanie stood firm in her belief that the club’s golden age was yet to come. As a result of her devotion, she enjoyed Barcelona’s long period of dominance in Spain when they won the league in four consecutive seasons between 2012 and 2015. Her undying commitment is a prime example to young players who may be facing similar struggles.
Melanie joined Barça Femení in 2003
Melanie Serrano did not forget to pack her wishes in the suitcase when she left her home for family reasons at just twelve years old. Barcelona gave her a home when they welcomed Melanie in at fourteen, and never let her go. Accompanied by hard beginnings, Melanie knew how to adapt to adversity while still fighting with a longing for success that drove her path. For her, the bustle echoing in each train station, as well as the concern of leaving each training session early to avoid losing the last train heading home with the night closed without knowing it, to which she would become a living legend 16 years later.
The team suffered one of the hardest blows of recent times with the relegation in the 2006/2007 season and the flirtations with a possible suspension of the women’s section tested the faith of colours that Melanie did not hesitate to defend. She got offers from other countries and clubs but remained faithful to the culés. Even the likes of Vicky Losada left for the following season to go to Espanyol, but Melanie remained. Under the flight of indisputable pieces, Melanie bet with faith for continuity at Barça, championing the return to the Superliga. In the 2008/2009 campaign, Melanie became one of the key players under the then-coach Xavi Llorens, rewarding Melanie’s exertion, perseverance and loyalty.
From the deepest darkness to touching the sky of Barcelona. After the new promotion, Melanie, along with Barça Femení, managed to win four leagues titles consecutively: 2011/2012, 2012/2013, 2013/2014 and 2014/2015. This strengthened the foundations of a love that lasts over time and preluded to the most successful era in the history of the female section of FC Barcelona. In her record, she treasures all the titles that adorn the showcases of Barça, becoming the most capped player and the bearer of a shield that is not understood without her presence.
While her minutes have significantly dropped in recent seasons, Melanie continues to be a key figure inside the dressing room
A total of five leagues, five Copas de la Reina, one Spanish Super Copa Femenina and nine Catalan Cups supply the large baggage of titles from both the Andalusian number 5. She has always gone in accordance with the successes of Barça Femení. Forged with a special character, Melanie has managed to stand out exceptionally in any corner of the pitch, dazzling both in the centre and on the left, her most natural position. In love with the ball, what started as a longing ended up becoming her way of understanding life.
As the only remaining survivor of the darkest times for Barça Femení, she showed that you can succeed with a good dose of patience, work, and humility.
Tempted by the greats, Melanie never hesitated to scare away the siren songs that posed on her figure to continue defending the colours of the club of her life. Writing about a player of Melanie’s caliber gets you emotional, and gratitude is what she deserves. The legend who stood with Barcelona for her entire career and still remained faithful defending its colours.
Under the heat of an impregnable union, the Seville-born woman continues to rise as the voice of experience in Lluís Cortés’ squad.
After the 2019 final of the UEFA Women’s Champions League against Olympique Lyonnais, Serrano wants to reissue the feat of the previous year and would place the icing on the cake with a European title this season. One of the pioneers of the great change in women’s football. Always attached to the history of Barça, she wants more: to bring the Champions League trophy for the most devoted player of Barça Femení. She may not posses a similar set of skills like the other greats, but she more than deserves a place at the club’s hall of fame for her unshakeable faith and her incomparable longevity with FC Barcelona.
Caroline Graham Hansen growing into the leadership role among Barça’s attackers
As shown in the Champions League semi-final loss against VfL Wolfsburg, Barça Femení may be short of leadership qualities upfront, but 25-year-old Caroline Graham Hansen is starting to provide just that.
After the loss against VFL Wolfsburg, FC Barcelona Femení learned that they needed to improve upon a lot of things if they wanted to be the best team in Europe. Many of Barcelona’s unresolved issues were exposed that night, such as poor match management, questionable team selection, and lack of clinical attacking.
However, the most standout thing that went wrong for Barcelona was their season-long issues with finishing, which came to a head at the worst possible time. Upon reflection, it was clear that Barcelona lacked both a positive mentality and a commanding leadership personality up top. That role is still desperately needed if Barcelona wants to be champions of Europe, and of all their current forwards, Caroline Graham Hansen may be the player best suited to pick up that role.
Ahead of the Barcelona v Wolfsburg, it was difficult to predict who the winner was going to be. Both teams were very similar in that they were renowned for the same matter: their outstanding attacking strength. For Wolfsburg, it was Pernille Harder, Fridolina Rolfo, Ewa Pajor, Alexandra Popp and Svenja Huth. For Barcelona, it was Lieke Martens, Mariona Caldentey, Jenni Hermoso, Asisat Oshoala and Caroline Graham Hansen.
Understandably, one of the most popular predictions about the game was that it was going to be a goal-fest. It didn’t quite work out that way though, as both teams’ forwards struggled to find the back of the net.
Barcelona in particular had a shocking night in terms of finishing. 14 shots with only one on target gave them a 9% shot accuracy. Something was clearly off about them, especially considering that everyone knows what these players are capable of. At that point, their front four was arguably Europe’s strongest overall attacking threat. It is for this reason that this loss and their lack of clinical finishing was 100% mental.
Barcelona’s captains and other leadership personalities are all midfielders, defenders or keepers. Consider Vicky Losada, Alexia Putellas, Marta Torrejón, Sandra Paños, Patri Guijarro and some of the younger players like Laia Codina and Aitana Bonmatí. These footballers in particular have captaincy qualities in multiple aspects. They command the play on the pitch, they aren’t afraid to give orders to anyone regardless of talent or superiority, they perform at a high level for 90+ minutes, they aren’t afraid to step up publicly and take responsibility with the media, and they are deeply dedicated to the club. What else do they all have in common? None of them are forwards.
This isn’t to say Barcelona’s attackers aren’t mentally strong. You have to be to play at this level. But at this moment, there is no outstanding player in attack who shows the traits of a captain. Which of the starting forwards can be the answer to this problem?
The two players that can already be eliminated from the conversation are Asisat Oshoala and Lieke Martens. These are two of the most accomplished players for their respective countries and have been at the top of the world for a while, but they don’t display many leadership qualities. Neither of them is very vocal or commanding, they aren’t too keen on giving directions, and, most importantly, their mentality in a game typically depends on those around them. There is nothing wrong with either of them not being leaders, but these two just won’t be the ones to do it.
Caroline Graham Hansen, wearing the captain armband with Norway’s national team | Photo by Jorge Guerrero / AFP via Getty Images
Jennifer Hermoso is unlike Asisat and Martens in this regard. She’s a record-breaking veteran for both club and country and she even holds captaincy for Spain. Her presence and reputation as one of Spain’s greatest ever footballers command respect on its own.
However, she is a player who prefers to lead by example and move in silence. This is a perfectly valid leadership style in itself, but it doesn’t suit the needs of Barcelona. Jenni was one of Barcelona’s best performers against Wolfsburg, but her top-notch performance clearly wasn’t enough. The team needed more, and despite her leadership qualities and veteran status, she couldn’t provide it.
Additionally, culés understandably don’t want to think about it, but Jenni isn’t getting any younger. She isn’t the team’s future, and it wouldn’t make much sense for the forward line to structure themselves around her leadership.
This only leaves one other established player amongst the four starting forwards: enter Caroline Graham Hansen.
Graham Hansen is still just 25 years old but has gone through a lot in her career. She has had two heartbreaks in two Women’s Champions League finals and was injured during both of them. Her international career has been similar: she missed the 2015 Women’s World Cup due to injury and suffered three straight losses in the group stages of the 2017 Euros as Norway’s FA was dealing with deep dysfunction. Like Rory Smith put it, her career has long been a “question mark” in the eyes of many. The way she has overcome her own doubts since then is unlike most players in this sport.
Hansen has become a different animal as she has gotten older. No Wolfsburg fan can forget how she kneeled down and pumped her fists after scoring the decisive penalty kick against Bayern Munich in the 2018 DFB Pokal Final. No Norwegian – or Australian – can forget how in the 2019 Women’s World Cup, she kept a stone-cold face, looked Lydia Williams dead in the eyes, and slotted Norway’s first penalty of the shootout straight past her, raising her arms in celebration and commanding Norway to the quarter-finals.
When she is needed to step up, when she is needed to be a commanding force, when she is needed to be a leader, she has done it in some of the biggest matches of her recent career. Norway’s captain Maren Mjelde echoed this exact thought in an interview to FIFA.com from September 2019.
“In the last two years she has grown an awful lot, in two ways that complement each other: she is a great leader and a great team player at the same time. All her energies go into helping the team to play better and win. She was crucial for us at the World Cup and I still don’t think we have seen the best of her. She has got the quality to change games, and when it comes to one-on-one situations, she’s the best in the world…She has become a natural leader”Maren Mjelde, Norway’s captain
This display of mentality didn’t stop when she got to Spain either. In her first season with Barcelona, she was a pivotal part of the attack and had no fear approaching any defender. With 24 direct goal involvements in all competitions, it’s clear she is already comfortable with her role in the team.
Graham Hansen also has a clear love for Barcelona and has since she was a child. Despite only being present in Catalonia for a season, Caroline Graham Hansen is one of the most vocally committed players in this current group at FC Barcelona. Her words after the Wolfsburg semi-final loss reflect this in two different ways.
“I would say today we were better which proves that what Barça have been doing in recent years has been good, we are here to be reckoned with next year. We will go home and keep on training and improving because we want to avenge this defeat next year”Caroline Graham Hansen, via UEFA TV after losing against Wolfsburg
But on her Instagram, she chose a softer tone, expressing her love and dedication to the club, calling it “her home” and using the hashtag #soyculé (I am a culé): “I’m so proud to be a part of this team. This club. This family. Football isn’t always fair. That’s the sport. I accept that. We will come back. I know. We know. This is my home now. Thanks for having my back #soyculé”.
Caroline Graham Hansen admittedly has had some growing pains in this very new environment, but with this loss, she has only shown a drive to improve. She has everything at her disposal to be a leader in the attacking third. It’s her dedication, hunger, and ever-improving mentality that makes her the most likely player to become a leader for Barcelona’s forwards.