After years of growing in leaps and bounds, Barça Femení already belongs to the European elite: this is the new era of Barcelona’s women’s team.
“No hay distancia” [There’s no distance]. The powerful words of Barcelona captain Alexia Putellas couldn’t be any closer to the truth. It could be written off as just emotions getting the best of her following the team’s heartbreaking 1–0 loss to Wolfsburg in the semi-finals of the UEFA Women’s Champions League, but anyone who has been following this side for at least a few seasons knows that she in fact makes a good point and that her words hold some volume to them.
“The small details make the difference. We have had many chances. In the end, we haven’t been able to score and thus we go back home. We have had opportunities, but we couldn’t convert them”Alexia Putellas, after the 1–0 loss against Wolfsburg
As a fan and follower of the Primera Iberdrola and the team since 2015, I want to give a brief perspective and a slightly in-depth look into as to how far Barça Femení has really come in recent years just from what I have seen.
My love for Barça came when I was just a little girl just starting to play club football and I had a coach who was Dutch and he was a huge admirer of Johan Cruyff. Yes, Johan Cruyff the Dutch and Barça legend who even went on to manage the club later on after his playing career was over.
So after watching highlight videos of his constantly and learning more about the history of the club I quickly fell in love with everything the blaugrana signifies. I had no clue until 2015 that they even had a women’s team that had been founded in 1988, ten years before I was born.
Following the women’s team back in 2015 from abroad was quite hard as games weren’t streamed as often as they are now and social media especially wasn’t a big thing yet. I had to rely on Google just to keep up to date with their results and just hope they were accurate.
Fast forward to now, games are streamed more frequently or shown on TV and social media has become a pillar of how the team is marketed given their recent growth in popularity outside of Spain. As of now, they have over 300,000 followers on Twitter and 2.1 million on Instagram, which is just proof of the teams recently gained popularity.
Shortly after I started following Barça Femení they went on to win the 2014/15 Primera División, which brought their league titles count to four and officially became a professional team in 2015. After that, the team went on to finish second in the league for four consecutive seasons and won only two Copa de la Reina titles in that time. Atlético de Madrid proved themselves as worthy rivals of Barça in that time as they dominated in Spain for the last three seasons. It wasn’t until the 2018/19 season that the headway the club was beginning to make became more noticeable.
The climb all started in July 2018, when Stanley Black & Decker became the official main sponsor of the women’s team and they now adorn the Stanley logo on the front of their jersey. The team named Lluís Cortés as their new head coach in January 2019, which proved to be crucial for the team.
They followed that up with an impressive feat as they defeated Bayern Munich in the semi-finals of the 2018/19 UEFA Women’s Champions League, which sent them to their first-ever final of the prestigious tournament. A moment I will never forget as a fan and one I am sure that the players won’t be forgetting in a hurry either.
There is no longer distance between Barça Femení and the best continental sides | Photo by Gabriel Bouys via Getty Images
They faced a tough task in the final though as they came up against a dynasty in Lyon who had already won the tournament the past three consecutive seasons. This proved to be too much for Barça who ended up losing 4–1 on the day, but nonetheless there was still a lot to be proud of following a historic season. A historic season that saw them become the first women’s Spanish team to ever reach the UEFA Women’s Champions League final and all in the same historic season where they beat Atlético de Madrid 2–0 in front of a record crowd of 60,739 spectators at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium. A world record for a club match in women’s football.
After a brief break for the 2019 Women’s World Cup, Barça picked up right where they left off and started the 2019/20 season in some fashion as they beat CD Tacón [now rebranded as Real Madrid Femenino] 9–1 in their brand new stadium, the Estadi Johan Cruyff [Johan Cruyff Stadium].
The team dominated the league and ended the season a bit prematurely due to the coronavirus global pandemic, but as undefeated champions nonetheless. They also beat Real Sociedad to win the Supercopa de España Femenina, which was reinstalled for the 2019/20 campaign.
In Europe, they beat Juventus, FC Minsk and Atlético de Madrid on their way to face the German giants in women’s football, Wolfsburg, in the semi-finals. A semi-final game that saw some controversial calls and non-calls made by the ref fly under the radar due to the teams not making the most of the goalscoring opportunities they had, where Wolfsburg made the most of their lack of opportunities and won the game 1–0. As true football fans know, that’s the way it goes sometimes.
However, many things stand out from that game. The main thing is that Barça are no longer a type of underdog team due to their lack of experience in the competition, but that they are a force to be reckoned with. No longer are they a team that goes out onto the pitch wanting only to just be able to compete with other teams, but a team that plays to win and be the best even if they might not be the favourite.
“I would change none of our players for one of the rivals. The team is hurt, but we know that we must keep growing and the next time this won’t happen”ALEXIA PUTELLAS, AFTER THE 1–0 LOSS AGAINST WOLFSBURG
Their play throughout the 2019/20 term signals that this is clearly the mentality of the team and Alexia Putellas’ words shine light on that. The only direction Barça is heading is up and it is only a matter of time before glory is theirs for the taking, because, as Alexia said, there is no distance. Not anymore.
Barça Femení’s October Player of the Month: Alexia Putellas
Alexia Putellas has been performing as possibly the best midfielder in the world in the past months, but in October she rose to a different level as the best player of the month for Barça Femení.
Upon beginning the 2020/21 season, Barça Femení have started off their campaign flawlessly in both the league and the Copa de la Reina. Aside from all four of their matches being victories, they have completely and utterly dominated their competition with 22 goals scored and zero conceded. Every individual player has done their part in contributing to this dominance, but the team has taken such a commanding lead largely due to the consistent, near-perfect performances from our October Player of the Month, Alexia Putellas.
2020 has already been a huge breakout year on an individual level for the midfielder. The entire year, she has been playing the best football of her life for both club and country. October, in particular, has been her best month of 2020 from a statistics standpoint: she has 3 goals and 3 assists in four games. We will be looking at a match-by-match analysis that breaks down her scoring, passing, movement, and all the other elements that have made this October such a successful month for her.
Alexia bagged 3 goals in 3 Primera Iberdrola games in October for Barça Femení, while also scoring a goal and assisting another for the Spanish National Team last Friday. The Catalan playmaker is completely on fire in every game she plays in and arguably claiming to be the best midfielder in the world right now.
Primera Iberdrola | Real Madrid Femenino (A) (4/10/2020): 0–4
- Minutes: 90
- 1 Goal
- 1 Assist
The defending champions started their new season in style by winning 4–0 against the newly-established Real Madrid Femenino, formerly known as CD Tacón. Similarly to last year’s season opener, Alexia Putellas was once again the protagonist against Los Blancos with both a goal and an assist.
Alexia’s first direct goal involvement of the season was assisting Barça’s first-ever goal in the women’s Clásico. Alexia waited towards the corner of the box to send in a through ball to Patri Guijarro, who then scored on the edge of the box to find the back of the net for the first time in the historic fixture.
In the 20th minute, she pulled the trigger from the edge of the box with a rocket of a shot that would’ve surely lengthened Barcelona’s lead if not for an equally outstanding save from Misa Rodríguez. She then unlocked the defence yet again with a defence-splitting pass to Marta Torrejón in the 22nd minute, but the latter missed scoring from point-blank range. Alexia created all sorts of danger for Real Madrid Femenino. She rounded off her excellent performance with a well-deserved goal in the 75th minute. Alexia preyed around the box and slid the ball past Misa after a pinpoint cross from Caroline Graham Hansen to make it 0–3.
Against Real Madrid, most of Barça’s attacks came through the left (6 shots), which indicates that Alexia was one of the key players in terms of chance creation. In addition to that, she completed 3 successful dribbles along with as many shots on target. Alexia started off her season with an excellent game, setting a precedent for her performances later in the month.
Copa de la Reina semi-finals | Sevilla Femenino (H) (8/10/2020): 6–0
- Minutes: 63
- 1 Assist
After playing the full 90 minutes against Madrid, Alexia started the Copa de la Reina semi-final encounter with Sevilla. The Catalan was once again the catalyst for the team and spent her 63 minutes moving forward, breaking lines, and being a constant threat on the pitch.
It didn’t take Alexia long to find herself on the scoresheet yet again when she assisted a Caroline Graham Hansen goal in the 18th minute. After Patri stole the ball back from a Sevilla defender, Alexia moved away from pressure and sent a perfectly weighted, line-breaking diagonal pass to Caroline Graham Hansen who was just outside the box. Graham Hansen performed an elegant dribble move past three defenders and slotted the ball into the back of the net.
Alexia’s vision was again in full effect when she sent a no-look through ball in the way of Caroline Graham Hansen, who rounded up Barça’s second goal. Again, in the 25th minute, when Barça countered Sevilla following a corner, Alexia got into the box as a centre-forward ahead of Asisat Oshoala. However, Caroline Graham Hansen picked out Torrejón, who put the ball wide of the right side of the post. These two plays demonstrate their chemistry with each other. Alexia’s connection with Graham Hasen – arguably Barcelona’s first or second-best player – has been crucial in goal creation and attacking momentum this season.
Along with being pivotal in playmaking, Alexia showed herself to be more prone to getting in the box and looking for scoring opportunities. This match is yet another example of Alexia being an all-around player in build-up, goal creation, and goalscoring.
Primera Iberdrola | EdF Logroño (H) (11/10/2020): 6–0
- Minutes: 24
- 1 Goal
Alexia Putellas was on the bench against Logroño to make way for captain Vicky Losada, who got her first start of the season in this match. Barcelona were cruising past the opponents with a scoreline of 4–0 when Alexia was subbed in for Vicky in the 67th minute. Alexia widened Barca’s lead when she scored their fifth goal out of six, a strike from within the box after a swift buildup sequence.
Barcelona’s fifth goal was a fluid, well-worked goal involving 8 players with 9 passes between them. Alexia was positioned in the midfield leading up to the goal, always keeping herself open for a pass. When the ball advanced upfield thanks to an excellent dribble from Jana Fernández, Alexia started to make a run up the centre. No player marked her entry into the box because the focus stayed on Graham Hansen, and Alexia timed her run perfectly and slotted in neatly between the two centre-backs to find the ball and score.
In addition to Alexia’s goal, Vicky bagged one of her own and Aitana scored a brace. Since the loss against Wolfsburg, the midfielders have been getting into the box to contribute to scoring much more often. It became clear in the Women’s Champions League semi-final that the team had poor effectiveness in front of goal, and thankfully, almost every player seems to be making progress in that regard. Alexia particularly is leading by example with a refined finishing technique and an increased proclivity to get into the box.
Primera Iberdrola | Huelva (A) (18/10/2020): 6–0
- Minutes: 90
- 1 Goal
- 1 Assist
Barça Femení visited a notoriously difficult ground in La Orden to face Huelva on Matchday 3. Alexia started the match and was once again crucial to Barca’s win by scoring a goal and assisting another during her fine display.
Alexia frequently advanced into the box in the first half of the game, switching positions with Lieke Martens on the left side of the pitch. In the photo below, Alexia sends in a perfectly timed through ball, dissecting the defence for Martens. However, Martens’ first touch was a bit heavy and the defence took care of it quickly.
At the 39th minute, Alexia picked the ball on the left of the pitch, dribbled past a player, settled towards the end of the box, and sent a long-range lob shot that chipped the keeper on its way into the net. This goal took serious technical skill to finish off and is probably one of the best goals of her career. Alexia is becoming even more lethal inside the box than she used to be, and given how clinical she’s been from both long and short-range, she could be on track to beat her single-season league goal record of 16.
During the build-up, Alexia’s positioning and link-up play with Mapi León were crucial again in Barcelona’s success. She got herself in between players and constantly asked for the ball to break the defensive structure of the opponent. Alexia once again found her name on the stat sheet with her assist to Bruna Vilamala, who scored her first senior-team goal in the 78th minute. This was another well-worked team goal with 15 touches involving 8 Barça players. The sequence ended when Alexia shook off her defender and sent in the assisting pass straight to Bruna Vilamala’s feet.
In addition to her performances with Barcelona, Alexia put up yet another stellar performance for the Spanish national team with a ridiculous volley goal and an assist to cap off one of the finest months of her career. Alexia has already been having a phenomenal 2020, but consistent, dominating performances like those we saw this month only solidify her reputation as one of the best players in the world with unlimited potential to get even better.