Barcelona keeping title-winning stars together should strike fear in rivals

With key players lining up to extend their contracts and the seven-times champions a big draw for new signings, the Catalan giants could be out of sight for years to come, writes Martin Whiteley.

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When Barcelona Femeni were crowned Primera Division champions for a third season in a row at the weekend, they were not just celebrating an emphatic title win but the news that they would be keeping the core of a dominant team together.

And it’s not only the manner in which they sealed first place with a 5-0 demolition of upcoming Champions League quarter-final opponents Real Madrid on Sunday that will strike fear into their rivals. The fact this star-studded side — that’s currently 22 points ahead of Real Sociedad — could be out of sight for years to come after several key players committed their futures to the club will too.

The final whistle sparked wild celebrations for Barca who have a 100 per cent record in the league with 24 wins so far, yet the hosts didn’t quite have it all their own way in the first half. Fridolina Rolfo did head the ball into the net, but her joy was short-lived as she fell foul of an extremely tight offside flag.

Quality players have the ability to step to the fore when it matters and that is exactly what Alexia Putellas did as her quick-fire double put Barca in complete control just before half-time, although her first goal came courtesy of a huge deflection off Real defender Ivana Andres.

After the break, it was all Barca as they ran away with the game. Patri Guijarro rocketed home a third, before an own goal from Babett Peter and a late strike from Jenni Hermoso completed the rout on 82 minutes.

This latest triumph for Spain’s most successful women’s team takes their record for the most championships to seven league titles. The club also received a boost in the lead-up to the game when several key players extended their stay in Catalonia until 2024.

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First to ink a deal was Zaragoza-born Maria ‘Mapi’ Leon, who first joined Barca from Atletico Madrid in a history-making deal ahead of the 2017/18 season.

With a fee of around €50,000 agreed between the two clubs, the experienced defender would be forever the answer to a quiz question: who was the first female player to be transferred between two Spanish clubs where money changed hands?

Able to play in the centre of defence, or as a full-back, Leon has an aggressive attitude but combines that with good anticipation and brings her leadership qualities to the group.

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Next to put pen to paper was another important member of their backline, Marta Torrejon. The 32-year-old, who began her Barca journey in 2013 after she signed from cross-town rivals Espanyol, currently sits fifth on the list of all-time appearances for the club with close to 350 games under her belt.

Torrejon’s pace means she’s well suited to the full-back role she predominantly plays, however she also possesses a strong aerial ability that allows her to fit in seamlessly at centre-half when necessary.

Her heading skills come into good use at set-pieces at the other end of the field too, which has seen the former Spain captain set her own record for the most goals ever by a defender with 50 strikes.

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Another to add to her stay with Barca was Nigeria forward Asisat Oshoala, who initially signed on loan from Dalian Quanjian in January 2019, before the deal was made permanent that May. The four-time African Women’s Footballer of the Year has now made over 100 appearances for the champions.

Despite missing games due to injuries, Oshoala is currently the league’s leading scorer with 19 goals to her name. Pace and power are just two of the attributes that make her a nightmare for the defences who come up against her.

With more success surely on the horizon for defending European champions Barcelona, who also continue their defence of the Copa de la Reina against Sociedad tomorrow, it would take a very special offer from their rivals to tempt any of the current personnel to abandon the journey they are on.

Barca should also not be short of players wanting to join them going forward — and that is not only a frightening thought for the other clubs in Spain but Europe too.

Follow Martin on Twitter @673martin

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