BarcelonaJonatan Giráldez’s Barça start 2023 on the right foot: another victory in the League, this time against Sevilla (4-0) and at Johan Cruyff, it puts a smile on all the players and members of the team. This year, which has just begun, is both exciting and decisive. The desire for revenge in the Champions League, the return of Alexia Putellas and the doubt that hangs over the World Cup are some of the challenges and days marked in the calendar.
This year it’s box or belt. Barça wants – and needs – to conquer the coveted continental trophy again. Turin was too cruel a fate for the culers and 2023 must be the year. This is how the team has conjured up to once again make the European competition their own. The feelings are good, but not like those of that 2021 when all the records were broken and history was made in Gothenburg. This year the culers are not undefeated in the Champions League – they suffered their first defeat of the season against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena – but the paths to victory are not always a dream. This Barça is more mature and has experience in managing difficult moments. Now, awaiting their luck in the draw for the quarter-finals to be played on February 10, the Blaugrana have June 3 marked on the calendar: they want to be in the final at PSV Eindhoven’s stadium.
By those dates, most of the questions still open to the staff should be resolved. Cata Coll, Claudia Pina, Caroline Graham Hansen, Irene Paredes, Fridolina Rolfö, Ingrid Engen and Bruna Vilamala. The 7 footballers in the first team are out of contract at the end of this season and the Barcelona club is already starting to thread the needle. Before the end of this January, the renovations of Pina and Bruna, the haystacks of the Barça of the future, are planned.
Another key name in the squad is Caroline Graham Hansen. The Norwegian, now on leave due to an injury to the biceps femoris tendon in her right thigh, is one of the indisputable talents of the Blaugrana team despite the fact that the European bodies always seem to forget about her. The technical secretariat has a lot of work to do this year, since, once the contractual situation of these seven footballers has been resolved, the contracts of 14 will end in 2024, including Alexia Putellas, Mapi León and Mariona Caldentey, in addition to Jonatan Giráldez and Markel Zubizarreta.
2023 must be the year of Alexia Putellas’ return to the playing field. If they dismissed 2022 with the best possible image with the captain starting to step on the grass of the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper training fields, the year that is just beginning should give us the image of her wearing shorts again . The recovery process is on wheels. The Spanish captain, who was injured hours before the start of the European Cup when she tore the cruciate ligament in her left knee, is making steady progress in the long recovery process that comes with the quintessential injury in women’s football. Already with the boots on, and combining the gym sessions with the continuous running on the field, Alexia has between eyebrows to come back stronger than ever, as she confessed in the documentary premiered a few months ago on Amazon Prime Alexia: Work Conquers All .
Once the season is over, almost the entire culer squad will leave with their respective national teams. Well, or almost all of them, since it remains to be seen how the conflict between the Spanish Federation and the fifteen will be resolved. It seems that the positions are getting closer, as Irene Paredes acknowledged before the match at the Camp Nou, but the agreement is still far from being reached. After a Eurocopa in which Spain played too poor a role for what was expected, the players said enough. The World Cup starts on June 20, is played in Australia and New Zealand and Spain, waiting to see which players go there, faces Costa Rica, Zambia and Japan in the group stage.
Women’s football in Spain still has a long way to go before being able to hang up the professional banner. Little by little, steps were taken to implement the status granted by the Higher Sports Council. One of the pillars of this professionalization is the collective agreement. Negotiations started at the end of September and since then the agreement has progressed little by little. The talks are continuing and the two parties sitting at the table – the League and the five unions – are optimistic and hope to get the new framework text on track sooner rather than later. Hopefully it will be before next season, but it looks like it will be a long shot.