Throughout most of women’s soccer history, and through today, many teams are not professional. Players earned less money, had worse facilities, and it was harder to grow their division without huge financial backing. England, the Netherlands and France are all examples of leagues that professionalized early. Consequently, these three countries are bearing national team success. They also have teams that regularly dominate in continental competition.
On the other hand, Spain did not professionalize early. Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and the Barcelona women’s team struggled abroad.
Barcelona had modest success before they professionalized as a women’s team. The club built a foundation and identity in its women’s brand. It took until 2015 for FC Barcelona to officially professionalize the women’s team, FCB Femení. The result was two Primera Divisions and four Copa de la Reinas in the six seasons since professionalizing. More impressively, the foundation created one of the most dominant teams in both Spain and Europe.
Landing the big names
They began signing some big names like Lieke Martens and Élise Bussaglia. The club continued to challenge for league titles. But, Atletico Madrid had Barcelona beat, winning three-straight top-flight titles.
Still, Barcelona was a way off from truly challenging in the Women’s Champions League. It reached the semifinals in the 2016/17 season. Yet, Barcelona was no match for a powerful PSG outfit. Two years later, in the 2018/19 campaign, Barcelona got to its first Women’s Champions League Final. Again, a French side was too powerful, as Lyon defeated Barcelona, 4-1. Two seasons after that, the major signings for the Barcelona’s women’s side ran rampant.
The 2020-21 UEFA Champions League was a great time for Barcelona. It defeated Manchester City after breezing through easier competition. In the semifinal, Barcelona got revenge on PSG, narrowly defeating the Parisians 3-2 on aggregate. It set up a Final against Chelsea, another one of the consistent performers in the Women’s Champions League. Moreover, Chelsea was in the middle of a stretch of six Women’s Super League titles in an eight-year stretch.
From the start, Barca dominated Chelsea. First came a Melanie Leupolz own-goal, and from then on, Alexia Putellas, Aitana Bonmatí and Caroline Graham Hansen contributed. Inside 36 minutes, Barcelona had a four-goal lead. It was a comprehensive takedown of a powerhouse. Significantly, it was a turning point in Barcelona’s history.
Putellas, arguably the greatest to do it in women’s football, led an exciting core of stars. It includes Jennifer Hermoso, Lieke Martens, Sandra Panos and Asisat Oshoala.
Barcelona women’s team borders on perfection
With its star players, elite coach and good resources at its feet, you would expect Barcelona to win, win and win some more. And that’s exactly what they have done in recent years. In the past three years, Barcelona has picked up three Liga F titles, three Copa de la Reina titles, three Supercopa de Espanas, and a Women’s Champions League title. They have built an indestructible and perhaps unmatchable dynasty that may not be knocked off until Putellas and Oshoala leave or retire.
The immortal 2021/22 season was a marker in Barcelona’s success. It rolled its way to a perfect Liga F season. In total, Barcelona scored 156 goals and only gave up 11. The first loss of the season came on the road at Wolfsburg in the Women’s Champions League semifinal. Of course, Barcelona still advanced, 5-3 on aggregate. The club’s painful 3-1 loss against Lyon in the Women’s Champions League was a cruel ending to a nearly perfect campaign.
Barca wowed record audiences with tempo and optimistic football that sought to win through its impressive offense. Although it’s easy to win when you can outspend your opponents. That is what Barcelona did when it bought former Manchester City midfielder Keira Walsh. Regardless of spending, the team thoroughly outplayed each opponent.
How Barcelona gets it done
The club mainly relies on its wingers to either beat their defenders and suck in the defense toward them to create chances, or to overload the flanks to create space for the starting striker, which is one of Oshoala or Brazilian Geyse. Barca can boast phenomenal dribblers in Graham Hansen, who has eight goals and five assists in 14 total games. Then, teenager Salma Paralluelo notched eleven goals and four assists in 21 total games. Finally, Ana-Maria Crnogorčević picked up nine goals and seven assists in 31 total games.
Compare the Barcelona women’s system to the City system. Jack Grealish, Kevin de Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez feed balls to either Erling Haaland or Julian Alvarez. Manager Jonatan Giráldez has also made use of Barcelona’s solid midfield duo of Putellas and Bonmatí. Their emphasis around the midfield and wings lets them dominate possession, get shots off and score goals at ease.
They are not as utterly dominant as they were in years past. They lost Hermoso to Pachuca, Martens to PSG and Leila Ouahabi to Manchester City. Past stars like Kheira Hamraoui, Vicky Losada and more have all left. Yet, the team keeps adding more stars.
Geyse tied with Oshoala for the Golden Boot last season. Her arrival at Barcelona coincided with the arrivals of both Lucy Bronze and Walsh from Manchester City. Putellas suffered from an ACL injury for the past nine months. She is slated to return ahead of the Champions League semifinal second leg against Chelsea on Thursday. With PSG and Lyon both out of the competition, Barcelona is well in the hunt for its second UWCL title.
League and cup double loading
Barcelona is the overwhelming favorite to pick up the Liga F title. With 24 wins in 24 games, they have scored 101 goals while conceding just five. There are just six games remaining in the domestic schedule, and second-place Real Madrid is 13 points adrift.
Barcelona will not defend their Copa de la Reina title for the fourth-straight time. Barcelona walloped Osasuna, 9-0, but Osasuna advances. Geyse had a red card in her last Copa de la Reina match with Madrid CFF. Despite changing clubs, the suspension carried over. She played, and that disqualified Barcelona.
Barcelona is on the verge of advancing to the UEFA Women’s Champions League Final again. After defeating Chelsea in the first leg of the semifinals, 1-0, Barcelona just needs to see off the Blues to reach a fourth final in five years.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Sports Press Photo
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