Sponsorship contracts, Catalan DNA and Masia: how Barça became the benchmark for European women's football

Sponsorship contracts, Catalan DNA and Masia: how Barça became the benchmark for European women’s football

History will remember that a draw against Espanyol had the skin of Fran Sánchez Bas and that this poor performance was perhaps founding for all Spanish women’s football. On January 8, 2019, the Barça Femení coach was sent home after a season and a half on the Blaugrana bench. If the brother of the coach of Qatar contributed to the conquest of the Copa de la Reina, he did not manage to achieve the great objective set by the management: to regain the title of champion of Spain.

From 2011 to 2015, under the orders of Xavi Llorens who remained on the bench for 11 seasons (2006-2017), FC Barcelona dominated Spain but, since then, the shark has become runner-up and has been in second places. The first accession to the last four of the Champions League in 2017 was a real satisfaction, although fleeting. Much more worrying: Atlético de Madrid has established itself as the first force in the country with already two consecutive titles and a third announced. This January 8, 2019 propelled Lluís Cortés, Fran Sánchez’s third deputy, to center stage. However, this appointment, if it has profoundly changed the face of the Spanish “futfem”, does not constitute kilometer 0 of the victorious Blaugrana cycle.

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Players of FC Barcelona women celebrating the victory during the Primera Iberdrola league match between FC Barcelona women and Real Madrid women at Estadi Johan Cruyff on March 13, 2022 in Barcelona

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Surname: Zubizarreta First name: Markel

He may be full of diplomas and have sent his application file in the most classic and conventional way possible, but it is difficult to get rid of a name so well known in Barcelona and throughout Spain: Zubizarreta. Markel is the son of Andoni, captain of Barça, winner of the European Cup of champion clubs in 1992. In October 2015, he was appointed head of sports management for the women’s section at the age of 26. Less than two years later, in October 2017, he became the boss of all female categories. With a firmer hand than his father against Nigeria in 1998.

Amid the sporting and economic slump, the women’s section has been an oasis for Bartomeu management. Professional since 2015, her goal was to find exclusive partners to initiate her long-term project. Thus, Rakuten only concerned the men’s team, which received €55 million per season from 2016 to 2022. In July 2018, the club signed an exclusive 3-year contract with the American brand Stanley after an overseas tour. Atlantic with the men’s team. A great first which brought in 3.5 M€ per season.

This offered her autonomy, a substantial budget to take on a project resolutely based on Barça DNA and sufficient cash to pay the salary of Lieke Mertens, best player in the world in 2017 and the only one in the squad who emerged. more than €100,000 per year as well as the transfer of Mapi León from Atlético de Madrid (€50,000), a major first in women’s football. Total incongruity: Barça Femení has ​​generated profits! Everything has since returned to normal: the specialized site 2Playbook claims that for the 2021-2022 financial year, the section will lose 2.3M€ for a budget of 7.5M€. If the figures are not yet clearly defined, the global partnership signed with Spotify could make it possible to recover 5M€ per year.

Jennifer Hermos, FC Barcelona

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An internationalization of its workforce and a reaffirmation of its Catalanism

Under the aegis of Markel Zubizarreta, Barça has both operated an internationalization of its workforce but also reaffirmed its Catalanism or, at the very least, a Spanishism. In addition to Lieke Mertens, the FCB made big moves in 2019 by attracting the Nigerian Asisat Oshoala during the winter transfer window then the Norwegian Caroline Graham Hansen in the off-season. The Swiss Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic, the Norwegian Ingrid Engen and the Swedish Fridolina Rolfö came to reinforce the foreign contingent. Meanwhile, the Brazilian (2016-2019), the French Élise Bussaglia (2017-2018) and Kheira Hamraoui (2018-2021), the English Toni Duggan (2017-2019), the Macedonian Natasa Andonova (2017-2019) and the Dutch Stefanie van der Gragt (2018-2020) also put their bag in Catalonia.

The arrivals of foreign players fit into a Hispano-Catalan framework. In 2019, Barça started their Champions League final with 9 Spaniards on the pitch. They were 8 in 2021 and 16 on the match sheet. We can even evoke a truism “Catalan countries” since, apart from Madrid’s Jenni Hermoso, all the players come from Aragon (Mapi León), the Valencian Community (Sandra Paños), the Balearic Islands (Patri Guijarro, Mariona Caldentey, Cata Coll) and obviously from Catalonia (Alexia Putellas, Aitana Bonmati, Marta Torrejón, Leila Ouahabi, Melani Serrano, Andrea Pereira, Laia Codina, Jana Fernández, Bruna Vinamala, Gemma Font).

Finally, the female Masia is developing and the club’s emblematic training policy is already bearing fruit. This season, several players born in 2004 are gradually joining the first team: Esther Laborde, Julia Bartel, Ona Barabad, Martina Fernández, Ornella Vignola. Perhaps they will leave to toughen up in another club as was the case for Claudia Pina who was loaned to Seville last season before returning? The filial-Barça bridge is effective but the abundance of goods forces the club to send its promises to other La Liga clubs as is currently the case for the great promise Candela Andújar in Valencia or Emma Ramírez at Real Sociedad. Ona Battle (Manchester United) and Laia Aleixandri (Atlético de Madrid) also prove that there is life outside of Barcelona.

Cortés, the fallen conquistador

Twenty-four hours after the dismissal of Fran Sánchez Bas, the enthronement of Lluís Cortés was a founding act. A real revolution. If Barça does not manage to prevent Atlético from winning the title, it however reaches the final of the Champions League after having eliminated Lilleström in the quarter-finals then Bayern. Despite a final defeat against Olympique Lyonnais (4-1), the performance is impressive. This is the first outcome of a project that will take the club to the top of Europe. Because under the orders of Cortés, FC Barcelona has not only become the indisputable number 1 in Spain again, but it has lifted the 2021 Champions League after a final folded in 36 minutes against Manchester City (4-0).

His Barça delights purists, the Johan-Cruyff stadium attracts great crowds and, even more importantly, it attracts the next generation who now have references, such as the Ballon d’Or Alexia Putellas, to identify with. At the time when Atlético is giving up and Real Madrid is settling with an equipazo built in an express way in less than three seasons, FC Barcelona is flying over the debates with great blows of goleadas. After a title won at least due to the pandemic, the 2020-2021 season is an absolute success: Liga-Copa-Champion’s. Only the SuperCopa escaped the raid after an elimination in the semi-final against Atlético after extra time. In the league, the record is staggering: 99 points in 34 days, 33 wins, 1 loss, 15 goals conceded and… 167 registered! A solo coffee y la cuenta por fa!

Joan Laporta

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To the opportunistic happiness of Laporta

No need for Les Groseille, Le Quesnoy and Patrick Bouchitey who sings “Jésus reviens” to know it: life is not a long calm river. At least for Lluís Cortés. As soon as the Champion’s was in the trophy cabinet, the five captains (Alexia Putellas, Sandra Paños, Patri Guijarro, Marta Torrejón and the legend Vicky Losada now at Manchester City) asked Markel Zubizarreta to have the coach of the triplet removed. At present, the deep reasons for this departure have not leaked. The open letter from Gio Queiroz, Brazilian international currently on loan at Levante, addressed to Joan Laporta (who had not yet become president at the time of the events) last Monday caused further confusion, although it is not known precisely if it incriminates the now coach of Ukraine, the staff, the management or the medical services.

It was Jonatan Giráldez, Cortés’ Galician assistant, just thirty years old, who took over the team. And the numbers in La Liga remain completely insane. With 5 rounds remaining, Barça have won all their matches, scored 138 goals and only conceded 7. The title has been validated for a long time, the SuperCopa was won in January after a victory… 7-0 in the final against Atlético . The group stage in the Champions League is of the same ilk: 6 wins, 24 goals scored, only 1 conceded. In the quarter-final first leg against Real Madrid, the Blaugranas trembled for the first time in a very long time.

Led in the score from the 8th minute after an achievement by Olga Carmona, they waited for the 53rd minute and the contentious intervention of the VAR to equalize on penalty by Alexia Putellas. The 3-1 victory in Viking lands offers a clear advantage when it comes to filling the Camp Nou. On January 6, 2021, half a century after the pioneers, the women’s team had been entitled to the setting of 99,000 people but, due to health restrictions, the derbi against Espanyol (5-0) had been disputed at behind closed doors. This time, they will evolve to sold-out crowds to validate the qualification in the semi-finals. If the presidential campaign in 2021 has left no doubt as to his absolute ignorance of futfem blaugrana, however dominant it may be, Joan Laporta offers incomparable promotion for his Barça but also for all of women’s football: a Clásico in the Champions League. As Johan Cruyff said: “salid y disfrutad”.

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