European football experienced a minor catastrophe on the evening of May 16, 2021. Crowned European champions after beating Chelsea (0-4) in the Champions League final, FC Barcelona players brought the Catalan club – and a Spanish formation – their first European Cup, ending Olympique Lyonnais’ hegemony (OL) and the German trio Wolfsburg-Potsdam-Frankfurt, which had monopolized fifteen of the last sixteen editions.
The event was no coincidence, as Jonatan Giraldez’ players have a chance to keep their title this year. On Saturday, May 21, they face OL in the final, at the Juventus Stadium in Turin (Italy).
Another Spanish win in Europe’s most prestigious competition would redraw the landscape of women’s football a little more. If it is too early to speak of a transfer of power, it would nevertheless confirm the emergence of a new heavyweight.
“A desire to shine quickly”
Until then, with Lyon topping five consecutive Champions Leagues between 2016 and 2020, the Catalan ‘Femeni’ had mostly been limited to supporting roles in Spain, in the shadow of Atlético de Madrid.
Elise Bussaglia lived through this period and is one of the few French women to walk on Catalan grass between 2017 and 2018. Although her passage was not crowned with a major title, the former midfielder did experience the transition to the top. † In my time there was already the ambition to build a competitive team, a strong desire to quickly shine on the European stage. It was just the beginning, but in a short time they managed to become European champions.traces the former international to 192 selections with Blauw.
The Barcelona flight originated in 2015, the year of the club’s professionalization, synonymous with restructuring. Until then, the team had struggled with a lack of resources, which mainly affected training. “Alexia Putellas, for example [qui a reçu le Ballon d’or de la meilleure footballeuse de l’année 2021]† had to leave Barça because the club had closed two youth teams”he recalled in March in the columns ofEl Paisthe current women’s sports director, Markel Zubizarreta.
The staff has since rectified the situation. “We now have youth categories from 12 to 19 years. Two new teams will be formed for next season. The academy will be expanded from 100 to 140 players in the coming year †details, for The worldthe Catalan leader.
Faultless in Spain
For the men, the local swimming pool is the heart of the sports project. Many players from the Catalan region make up the team. Among them the star Alexia Putellas (returned to the club in 2012) or even Aitana Bonmati, symbols of a “Barcelona style” game identity based on possession and doubling of passes.
“The rules and instructions of the game are taught from an early age to children, boys or girls. All Spanish players are trained with the Barça identity. It creates a competitive team, with a DNA developed over several years, to which we add foreigners to fill certain gaps, such as speed.underlines Elise Bussaglia.
In the summer of 2021, the training center “Masia” received its first nine players, until then student football players had to return home after training. Some have been able to evolve with the first team this season (Ona Baradad, Martina Fernandez).
This strategy seems to be paying off. The club has established itself as the steamroller of Iberian football since 2020. The Catalans have just won a third consecutive Spanish champion title, achieving a clear (30 wins in 30 competitions). The FCB lost only one game this season, against Wolfsburg in the semi-final return leg of the Champions League (2-0).
Budget tripled since 2015
Elise Bussaglia is formal: ‘A team that contributes a lot of money is almost guaranteed to win a Champions League in the next three years’she assures. A comparison that Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas understood better than anyone when he founded the women’s section in 2004 to make it the most successful club in Europe.
At Barça, the budget has tripled since 2015 (from 1.5 to 4.5 million euros) and the number of employees has quadrupled over the same period (from 5 to 20 people). This expansion is mainly due to the partnerships the club has forged, starting with the American tool brand Stanley, jersey sponsor since 2018, which provides 3.5 million annually to the “Femeni”. Starting next season, the latter will also benefit from the agreement concluded with the streaming platform Spotify, for an amount of 70 million euros per fiscal year, for the next three years. The division between the men’s and women’s teams has not yet been decided.
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Given in an interview to the athletic† at the beginning of May, Jean-Michel Aulas insisted on the need to“Budget increase Lyon in light of Barcelona’s rise”† Before adding: “We have followed two or three players in the last two years and each time the players have gone to Barcelona, whose offers [financières] were higher. †
Barcelona also played the card of increased visibility with the relocation of large posters to the Nou Camp, the club’s historic stadium. The first leg of the Champions League semi-final against Wolfsburg (5-1) on April 22 broke the attendance record for a women’s football match with 91,648 spectators. “They are not only an excellent team, they also fill the stadiums. It can only be an example.in this regard, greeted OL defender Selma Bacha, after the victory over PSG, in the semi-finals, on April 30.
Catalan President Joan Laporta already sees his team as ” the best of the world “† To prove it, it will first be necessary to get rid of the seven-time European champion. In the game of direct confrontations, the advantage for now goes to the “Fenottes” of Lyon, with three victories in as many European duels.