Barcelona Femení and the Pursuit of Perfection

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BARCELONA, Spain — These are the bare figures of Barcelona Femení’s year so far. The workforce has played nine video games in the league. It has won 9 games in the league. It has gained them, in reality, by this kind of a margin that the phrase “won” does not really capture it. Barcelona’s first activity ended, 5-. So did its next. In its 3rd and fourth video games, it scored eight.

That was only the start. The next 7 days, it conquer Alavés by 9-1. Late final thirty day period, it confronted Actual Sociedad, the just one team even now vaguely, theoretically, in its slipstream at the summit of La Liga Fémenina. That finished 8-1. In the center of all that, it located time to deconstruct Arsenal, the or else unbeaten leader of Britain’s Women’s Tremendous League, also.

Like its two appointments in the Champions League, Barcelona has played 11 video games this period. It has conceded a few aims — one particular every to Alavés, Real Sociedad and Arsenal — and it has scored a scarcely believable 60. Its coach, Jonatan Giráldez, has weighed all of that proof ahead of drawing his summary: Barcelona actually should have scored extra goals.

The normal assumption may possibly be that he is, if not joking, then possibly exaggerating for effect, but Giráldez is pretty serious. In his thoughts, it is a simple equation: You just have to place the figures in proper context. “We have produced extra than 200 possibilities,” Giráldez mentioned. “So if you seem at it like that, we have not scored quite quite a few.”

This is a manager’s occupation, of study course: to desire regular enhancement from players, to refuse them the luxurious of resting on their laurels, to eschew the really idea of becoming happy. “That’s what coaches are like,” said Marta Torrejón, the knowledgeable Barcelona defender, “always seeking extra.”

Giráldez’s reasoning, though, is somewhat far more pragmatic. He was promoted to head coach very last summer season after the unpredicted departure of his predecessor, Lluís Cortés, only weeks just after the club experienced received not just the Spanish league and its domestic cup but also its initial Champions League title, crushing Chelsea, 4-, in the remaining.

Giráldez, 29, was offered the task ahead of a cluster of other applicants — at minimum 20 coaches from all-around the planet speculatively despatched in their résumés — effectively as a continuity applicant, someone who knew “our ideas and our identity,” as the club’s sporting director, Markel Zubizarreta, place it.

To Giráldez, the career is a substantial privilege and a consistent strain. Barcelona, now the foremost staff in women’s soccer, has requirements to manage and anticipations to meet. He does not question for extra from his gamers out of rote instinct he does it because he is aware of that what appears to be a slight fissure at this stage of the year could confirm a lethal fault line later on on.

“We have conceded two targets from set items this period,” Giráldez explained. (The third, scored by Genuine Sociedad’s Sanni Franssi, arrived from a counterattack.) “One from a corner, just one from a totally free kick. When you gain a match, 8-1, that goes unnoticed, but we have to strengthen that, due to the fact when we play in the last rounds of the Champions League, in opposition to Lyon or Paris St.-Germain or Wolfsburg, that action could ship us residence.

“If we have 25 prospects in a video game, the goalkeeper saves 13, and 12 go extensive. In a a lot more well balanced recreation, we would not have so numerous likelihood, so we have to make absolutely sure we acquire much more of them. We have to work out why we did not score additional goals: We got 9 from Alavés, but I experienced the feeling that we could have scored 15. Why did not we?”

It is essential, he swiftly adds, to identify that it is really tricky to rating eight aims in a recreation, to value and to rejoice that. And then demand even superior.

“You can get, 8-, and continue to have a good deal of matters to strengthen,” Giráldez claimed. “My job is to detect what we have accomplished poorly and modify it. It is about increasing every detail.”

Those aspects are not straightforward to discover at Barcelona, not these days. In the eight years because Torrejón joined the club, it has changed virtually over and above recognition. “It is like a unique location,” she claimed. “From zero to 100.”

When Torrejón arrived, education periods still took place in the evening, since the gamers both attended school or went to perform throughout the day. Currently a fixture on Spain’s countrywide team back then, she had joined on the promise that Barcelona would turn specialist. There was discuss of significant expense, attracting a sponsor, creating a winning team.

When the go arrived, in 2015, it felt “like luxurious,” Torrejón explained: arriving at Barcelona’s schooling sophisticated in the morning, having breakfast together as a workforce, enjoying accessibility to the club’s health-related products and services and its conditioning staff members and its condition-of-the-artwork services. Nevertheless, nevertheless, “thinking about profitable the Champions League was difficult,” she explained.

Barcelona did not choose, contrary to several of its peers, to use the economical clout of its parent club to speed up its progress. “For 10 million euros,” or about $11.5 million, “you could invest in a team of the best players in the earth,” Zubizarreta said. “There are teams out there that are projects primarily based on doing that. Lyon has carried out it. Chelsea has done it. Manchester Town has an English main but they have completed it, far too.”

Barcelona, he stated, needed to do it otherwise. “The best thing we can do is be ourselves,” Zubizarreta stated. As a substitute of upgrading its squad with a patchwork of superstars, it made a decision to allow the players it experienced to prosper, to construct a group that was “distinctively Barcelona.”

Development was halting. “It is pretty tough to climb the ladder organically,” Torrejón explained. There was a Champions League semifinal appearance in 2017, but for three yrs in succession the team finished 2nd in the league to Atlético Madrid. In that, possibly, lay the only conceptual change between the club’s men’s and women’s divisions. “The men’s staff not successful trophies to make investments in the long term would not, possibly, be the most effective-gained information,” Zubizarreta said.

The reward appeared to arrive in 2019. Barcelona concluded next in the league, yet again, but experienced for its 1st Champions League remaining. It satisfied Lyon, the sport’s equal of the Harlem Globetrotters, in Budapest, and was swept absent in the first 50 percent.

“It was a mirror,” Zubizarreta explained. “We could see how considerably we had to go.”

As shortly as he returned from Hungary, he sought out the club’s conditioning experts. There was no lack of expertise, but he understood that Barcelona’s gamers experienced to be fitter, more rapidly and more powerful to contend with the really best clubs in Europe.

What adopted, according to Giráldez, an assistant coach at the time, was a “brutal” transform in the way Barcelona properly trained. “We could boost quickly at the start off,” he explained. But the additional up the curve the players acquired, the harder they experienced to operate even for the smallest gains.

That technique turned so embedded in the club that it has endured even what may have appeared to be its apogee: the treble acquired beneath Cortés last season, capped by a destruction of Chelsea in the Champions League final that echoed Barcelona’s own working experience from Lyon two decades previously.

And so, even now, Giráldez can check out his crew, champions of every little thing, scoring five and 6 and 8 and nine from its opponents, with its aim difference — in the league by yourself — of additionally 52, and inquire for additional. And not only can his players recognize his light chiding and specific tape sessions, but they can also respect them.

“The key is that we are competing with ourselves,” Torrejón reported. “You contend with your rival for points or for qualification, but with your self to be much better every working day, for your area in the workforce. That is the largest battle: with oneself. The coach might generally want additional, but we do as a group. We are hardly ever content.

“Why be delighted with scoring four when you should really have scored 8?”