Sports

Why the best team in the world is only just getting started

Thousands are expected to journey northwest from Barcelona to Bilbao, crossing from Catalonia to the Basque region. As the Women’s Champions League reaches its climax at San Mamés, it could almost feel like a home final for Barcelona, bringing them closer to their roots without being hosted in the Camp Nou itself. This seems fitting, given Barcelona’s deeply rooted success and the influence of its renowned La Masia academy on this European showdown against Lyon.

For the past decade, Lyon has reigned as the dominant force in women’s football in Europe, clinching the Women’s Champions League title a record eight times between 2011 and 2022 with star-studded line-ups. Barcelona, on the other hand, has never triumphed over Lyon, facing defeat in the Champions League finals against the French side in 2019 and 2022. Yet, now poised to emerge as the new powerhouse in women’s club football, Barcelona remains unbeaten in Spain this season and is aiming for consecutive Champions League victories. Barcelona’s identity plays a crucial role in their journey – one that transcends past, present, and future.

“For us, it’s not just about winning; it’s about how you win, the style of play,” explains Vicky Losada, the former Barcelona captain who led the Catalan side to their inaugural Women’s Champions League title in 2021. This echoes the philosophy instilled by Barcelona’s iconic La Masia academy, shaping a generation of players who embrace Barcelona’s distinctive style. As Losada reminisces about her upbringing in the Barcelona system, she recalls the emphasis on enjoying possession and constantly seeking the ball, drawing inspiration from football legends like Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez.

While Lyon has been the benchmark of success in women’s football, Barcelona has been relentless in its pursuit of excellence, instilling a culture of resilience and commitment to their identity. Despite setbacks in Europe, particularly against Lyon, Barcelona remained steadfast in their approach, prioritizing possession-based football. Losada underscores the importance of sticking to Barcelona’s ethos even in defeat, highlighting the significance of staying true to their style of play.

As Barcelona’s journey unfolds, it reflects a larger narrative of growth and evolution in women’s football. The success achieved by Barcelona’s homegrown talents serves as inspiration for aspiring young players, shaping a new generation of role models. With Barcelona’s commitment to nurturing talent and attracting top players worldwide, the club continues to set new standards of excellence in women’s football.

A victory over Lyon in Bilbao would mark a historic milestone for Barcelona, signaling the dawn of a new era in women’s football. Yet, it may also signify the beginning of a greater journey ahead, one filled with endless possibilities and boundless potential.

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