Aitana Bonmatí proves herself as symbol of true Catalan excellence once again

Aitana Bonmatí does things that not many players can do. Timing her runs like clockwork is a skill that could perhaps be perfected by others, but the way she dances past defenders as if they are table-football players – merely able to hack away aimlessly in last-ditch attempts to rid the Catalan midfielder of the ball – is truly mesmerising.

That prowess was on full display on Saturday, as Bonmatí gave the Blaugrana something to celebrate at San Mámes – as if they needed a reason. Fans had packed out their designated meeting point in the city centre from as early as midday, with the streets between the Parque de Doña Casilda Iturrizar and the stadium turning into a blur of red and blue.

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A cagey start to proceedings saw that party atmosphere subdue a little by Barça standards, but when Aitana Bonmatí’s ambitious effort from a tight angle rippled the back of the net courtesy of a Vanessa Gilles deflection, the majority of the 50,827-strong crowd rose in unison.

The Blaugrana were on their way. Their first-ever win against Olympique Lyonnais could not have come at a better time – the final of the UEFA Women’s Champions League, allowing Jonatan Giráldez to tick off the tenth trophy in his three-year tenure in Catalunya and bring into doubt Olympique Lyonnais’ era of dominance.

The significance of the match was not lost on Bonmatí – a Culer through and through, who most probably bleeds the colours of the Catalan Senyera that has become so synonymous with the club itself.

“What we experienced today in San Mámes, in Bilbao, was unique. It was magical,” she expressed in her post-match press conference, barely able to keep the grin off her face as she addressed reporters.

It has been a whirlwind twelve months for the midfielder, for she has been thrust into the limelight that had historically been reserved for her midfield colleague, Alexia Putellas. An ACL injury left Bonmatí with the mammoth task of plugging the gaping hole in the Barcelona midfield – a task she took on in a manner that could perhaps best be described as sprezzatura: a little-used Italian word referring to the sheer nonchalance maintained whilst performing complex tasks.

“When we came by bus and saw the streets full, I got goosebumps,” she continued. “They only thought that we couldn’t fail – and today, we were up for it. We brought out our best version.”

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When Barça Femení matchdays roll around, those goosebumps are usually reserved for the fans. The beautiful unpredictability of Bonmatí’s play sends shivers down the spine, with nerves calmed only by the knowledge that – somehow – the 26-year-old will appear in the right place, just when Barça need her most.

After all, you don’t win a Ballon d’Or for the sake of it. You don’t get recognised by FIFA as The Best Women’s Player at a swanky ceremony in London just for rocking up two hours before a game and putting on the Barcelona shirt.

But it goes deeper than football, she insists. “What we achieved today is very great – not only for the match, but for the entire social movement that it generates. It’s something unique that will stay in our hearts forever. I’ve been a Culer since I was a child, so I’m privileged to experience this.”

The old adage of wearing your heart on your sleeve doesn’t fit for Bonmatí – everything she does is for the crest that adorns her chest, a symbol of true Catalan excellence that she is a key contributor to.

And so, as Barcelona stunned Olympique Lyonnais to lift back-to-back UEFA Women’s Champions League titles, it was simply poetic that Aitana Bonmatí would find herself playing a central role in defining the next chapter of this club’s great story.


Response

  1. Paula Sedgley

    Absolutely brilliant

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