It all started at an airport. In fact, it had started a few hours earlier in the hard defeat that Barça had suffered in the Champions League final against Olympique de Lyon in 2019, the first play in history by a Spanish team. The French team, the top winner of the European Cup (seven), beat the Catalans with four goals in half an hour (the duel ended 1-4). Lluís Cortés’s players surrendered to Lyon’s physical supremacy. Still with the noise of the defeat in the head, as the Barcelona plane was delayed in taking off at the Budapest airport, Lluís Cortés took the opportunity to have a conversation with his captains. “How did you feel?” Asked the coach before the eyes of Vicky Losada, Alexia Putellas, Sandra Paños, Marta Torrejón and Patri Guijarro, who had not played the final due to an injury but was already running as the team’s helm.
“They physically passed us over. They won all the disputes and all the crashes ”, the leaders of the Barça dressing room agreed on their feelings. It was the answer the technician wanted to hear. “What do you want to do?” Asked Gentle. “Whatever you say,” they replied. The coach rubbed his hands together. He knew he had the formula to erase the differences between the mighty Lyon and the emerging Barcelona. “We are going to train more, much more,” he told them. And they made an implicit pact. “The players pledged to be the best,” recalls Cortés. So if the vacation had to be one week instead of two, no one was complaining. Nor if you had to spend more hours in the gym or if you had to work in the morning and in the afternoon. “How we were so overcome, we told Lluís that we wanted to improve in everything and that is what we have done. Train much more, prepare the mind much more and be ambitious to the end. We said we would go back and here we are, “recalled Vicky Losada this Sunday, with the Champions League in hand after the 4-0 victory against Chelsea, about the conversation he had with his coach in Budapest.
A year later, in the 2020 semifinal, Barcelona lost a tight 1-0 to Wolfsburg. “We lost, but we realized that we were already where we wanted to be. It was a game in which we deserved much more. It didn’t happen, but that’s how football is. Yesterday at 40 seconds we were already 0-1. The luck that we did not have in 2020, we had it this year. It was better, wasn’t it? ”Explains Putellas. Barcelona kept the base of the final in Budapest and added two key pieces: Jennifer Hermoso, who returned to the club after passing through PSG and Atlético, and Carolina Graham Hansen. “Carol is one of the best in the world, if not the best,” they celebrate from the sports area.
“Here we work a lot with the ball. All the exercises are done according to the game of possession. It is the philosophy and the mentality of this club. And that is shown in the technical quality of the players on this team. It shows in every control, in every pass. You just need to see the precision and speed in the movement of the ball ”, reflected the Norwegian player, with the Champions League medal around her neck. “Physical work is also different. In Germany it was more athletic, we could run and run for hours through the forest. Here it is very hard, but everything we do has to do with the game. Everything revolves around that. I feel that my physique has improved a lot, but also my football, ”added Graham Hansen.
It was not easy, however, his decision to land in Barcelona. “When I left Wolfsburg, which was one of the two best teams in the world at the time, a lot of people questioned my decision. They said that I was going for the money, that it was a step back in my career. Now it is fantastic to be here with the Champions League in hand. I saw the potential that this team had ”, he concluded. It seems that he was not mistaken. In fact, the one who was was Samantha Kerr, Chelsea forward. During the 2019 final, when Lyon scored 0-4, he tweeted: “This is what they call competing?” A message that Putellas put like after winning the Champions. “Two years ago we made a chip change. There were people who were here who commented that that 1-4 had not been competitive for a final and today we have paid them with their medicine. We who supposedly did not know how to compete ”, finished Guijarro.
This Sunday Barcelona ended the year as number 1 in Europe. The feat had begun two years ago at an airport in Budapest.