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EURO 2022

Spain squad for Women’s Euro 2022: player profiles - Bonmatí, Hermoso...

A last minute injury to Ballon D’Or winner Alexia Putellas hurts the chances of a Spain team that still has plenty of talent.

Update:
HUELVA, SPAIN - JUNE 25: Mariona Caldentey celebrates with Ivana Andres of Spain after scoring their team's first goal during the Women's International Friendly match between Spain and Australia at Estadio Nuevo Colombino on June 25, 2022 in Huelva, Spain. (Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images)
Fran SantiagoGetty

As part of the Guardian’s Women’s Euro 2022 Experts’ Network, a collaboration between media outlets from 16 countries, AS is offering in-depth profiles of the players in all 16 squads at the tournament, which runs from 6 to 31 July. This lowdown on the Spain squad is written by Amalia Fra from AS.

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1. Sandra Paños

4 November 1992 (29), Alicante

Goalkeeper

Barcelona

With a father who is a former footballer (Luis Ernesto Paños) and a mother who was a track and field athlete (Gemma García-Villamil), Sandra Paños did all manner of sports as a youngster, and particularly liked karate. Finally, having stood out as a goalkeeper at school, she signed for Sporting Plaza Argel de Alicante and, from there, moved into professional football with Levante. As tends to happen in Spain, Barcelona did not miss out on the chance to snap her up and there is no doubt she chose the right sport now. Spain have a world-class performer in goal, Paños having been chosen as the best keeper in the world by the IFFHS and being nominated for the Ballon d’Or in 2021. She has changed the way female goalkeepers are seen in Spain.

2. Lola Gallardo

10 June 1993 (28), Seville

Goalkeeper

Atlético Madrid

Gallardo is unlucky to be playing at the same time as Sandra Paños. Injuries, time on the bench at Atlético Madrid and her move to Lyon (where she could not break into the team) have also worked against her. However, she is always seen with a smile on her face and working tirelessly to broaden minds in society. The Andalusian talks publicly and openly about her homosexuality, something that still is not very widespread in Spain. “I’ve had a life story and a family that have made it very easy for me, which is how I think it should always be,” she says. “They see that I’m happy and that’s what’s important.”. Nothing can dampen the joie de vivre that Gallardo brings to the Spain squad.

3. Misa Rodríguez

22 June 1999 (22), Las Palmas

Goalkeeper

Real Madrid

Was a surprise signing for the newly created Real Madrid women’s team when she joined from Deportivo in 2020 – but she has gone from unknown quantity to Madrid idol in the past two years. She attracted attention when she was targeted by misogynistic abuse after tweeting side-by-side photos of herself and Madrid men’s player Marco Asensio, with the caption: “Same passion”. Disappointingly comments such as: “Same sexual orientation” and “you’re as passionate as you are desperate to give him one” were among the replies. The Spanish football world rallied around Rodríguez on social media, with Asensio quickly coming out in her defence by tweeting: “Same passion – don’t let anything or anyone stop you from saying what you think.” A player who always seems to have a great time on the pitch, Rodríguez is a woman of real personality and loved by everyone.

4. Irene Paredes

4 July 1991 (30), Legazpi

Defender

Barcelona

A true leader who always gives her all, a player who gets through mountains of hard work – often unseen. Just like a mother. Since last year she has combined her job on the pitch with one of the most special roles in life: bringing up a child. It’s a challenge she applies herself to with the same passion and care that are clear to see when she is out on the pitch. Such qualities persuaded Barcelona to move for her when she was the captain at Paris St-Germain in 2021. “When it came to making a decision, I spent a lot of time speaking to my Spain team-mates,” Paredes says. “They spoke really highly of the club, of the project and, of course, they were a big influence on my decision.” She certainly was not short on offers and won the Spanish league and reached the Champions League final in her first season in Catalonia.

5. Mapi León

No todo van a ser goles en la final de la Champions femenina, en la que ambos equipos deberán de armarse muy bien en defensa para frenar el poderío ofensivo de sus rivales. Una de las rocas que buscará detener al Chelsea será Mapi León (25 años, Zaragoza)
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No todo van a ser goles en la final de la Champions femenina, en la que ambos equipos deberán de armarse muy bien en defensa para frenar el poderío ofensivo de sus rivales. Una de las rocas que buscará detener al Chelsea será Mapi León (25 años, Zaragoza)David Ramos - UEFAUEFA via Getty Images

13 June 1995 (26), Zaragoza

Defender

Barcelona

Mapi León is La Roja’s artist-in-chief, both with her feet and her hands. She’s a budding tattooist. In fact, the Barcelona central defender has inked a lot of her own drawings on her skin. “That’s my other passion: drawing, and doing tattoos,” she says. “I really struggled to find a tattoo parlour where I could learn tattooing. I owe that to a friend. I started on pig skin and synthetic skin, but it’s not the same. When you draw a tattoo, you have to know whether you’re digging in too hard, whether you’re hurting the person.” She began practising on her own skin: “That’s why I don’t have any tattoos on my right arm! I don’t mind whether it ends up looking good or not. I know it’s my skin.” Joined Barcelona in 2017 the full-back come centre-back has won the league three times and the Champions League once since.

6. Andrea Pereira

19 September 1993 (28), Barcelona

Defender

Barcelona

Andrea Pereira is the Spain team’s legal mind. “Ever since I was little, my mum has said to me that I’ll be a lawyer for the underprivileged,” she says. “I studied business administration and then I got the bug for law.” Combining studies with playing for Barcelona and Spain is not always easy and sometimes she has exams when she is on international duty. “Today I have to have breakfast on my own because I’ve got a commercial law test when the others are having theirs,” Pereira explained once. “Thankfully, it’s online because of Covid.” Once, a few days before a game, she had a criminal law exam. As soon as it was over, she joined the team for training. “It went well,” she said with relief. Pereira has time for everything.

7. Ivana Andrés

13 July 1994 (27), Ayelo de Malferit

Defender

Real Madrid

Will go down in the history of Spanish women’s football as the first ever captain of Real Madrid. The defender was named as the legendary club’s leader when the team burst onto the scene on 1 July 2020. “Proud to be a member of this group and happy to experience moments that are part of the history of the Spanish game,” she said. It is worth recalling how she started out: in what proved a sterling piece of talent-spotting, her parents signed her up for her local team, Aielo CF, because she had spent all day kicking bottles around. After nine years at Valencia and two at Levante she is now the captain of Real Madrid and representing Spain.

8. Leila Ouahabi

22 March 1993 (29), Mataró

Defender

Barcelona

Leila Ouahabi is Spain’s most exotic player. Born in Catalonia to Moroccan parents she has something special about her, including the tattoo on her neck bearing her name in Arabic, and is influenced by her getaways to Tangier to visit her family. However, in 2016, she rebuffed Morocco’s attempts to recruit her and pledged her allegiance to Spain. She knew the path was smoother in the country of her birth; there were no longer any obstacles in her way. “I don’t know what they think about me being a footballer; I’m not really bothered, anyway,” she says. “If I had been born in Morocco, I might not have played football. It would have been difficult.” Leaving Barcelona this summer after 12 years – in two spells – at the club. “I am leaving having set out everything I achieved to do,” she said.

9. Ona Batlle

10 June 1999 (22), Vilasar de Mar

Defender

Manchester United

Ona Batlle can be considered La Roja’s greatest survivor. The Catalan decided to take her career in a new direction at the toughest time possible: during the coronavirus pandemic. New country, new language, new league, new friendships … and an injury making everything just that bit more difficult after joining Manchester United in 2020. So much so, that she began visiting the psychologist in England. “It’s funny; talking about my feelings in a language that isn’t my own was easy,” she says. Despite being unable to travel to Spain and join up with the squad at the height of Covid, Batlle will go into the Euros as a nailed-on starter. Nothing can stop her.

10. Olga Carmona

11 June 2000 (21), Seville

Defender

Real Madrid

One of Spanish football’s most precocious talents. The Andalusian made her debut for Sevilla aged just 15 and has been a regular performer ever since. “My father signed my brothers up for football and I went every evening to watch them train. I ended up wanting to play so much that I said to myself: ‘Why shouldn’t I go out and train with them?’” And she got her way. Carmona was a marquee signing for Real Madrid in 2020, and is one of the Spanish game’s most exciting prospects. At 21, she has a very bright future ahead of her.

11. Alexia Putellas

4 February 1994 (28), Mollet del Vallés

Midfielder

Barcelona

When it comes to Alexia Putellas, all the talk now is about her Ballon d’Or and Fifa The Best awards, not to mention all the other prizes the Spain captain has amassed in recent times – but her success is built on foundations that go way back. In no small part, back to the role played by her father, who always dreamed of seeing his daughter be successful at Barcelona. His death after a devastating struggle with illness deprived him of the chance to see that, but everything Putellas achieves is for him. “I’m going to try not to get emotional,” she said as she collected her Ballon d’Or last year. “Wherever you are, this is for you, Dad.” A last minute injury will keep her out from the tournament.

12. Patricia Guijarro

17 May 1998 (24), Palma de Mallorca

Midfielder

Barcelona

If Spain head coach, Jorge Vilda, would have a favourite among his players, it is fair to say that it would likely be Patri Guijarro. She made it into the squad for the France World Cup in 2019 despite going into the tournament on the back of a long-term injury (a ganglion cyst on her right foot, which forced her to undergo surgery twice). Without time to bed back in, the midfielder returned to action and excelled. Her seamless comeback was helped by the fact she has known Vilda since playing for him at age-group level with Spain. “We have a lot of belief in her; she was the best player at the Under-20 World Cup,” he says. She was his A-star student then, and still is now. His faith has been rewarded.

13. Aitana Bonmatí

18 January 1998 (24), San Pedro de Ribas

Midfielder

Barcelona

When introducing the Barcelona midfielder, it’s important to begin with the story behind her name. Bonmatí, the first of her two surnames, is taken from her mother. In Spain, people traditionally use their paternal surname first, but her parents were pioneers in the movement to change it. “In a lot of situations, women are given a secondary role,” Bonmatí says. “I’ve never let myself be pushed to one side.” A 1m58cm battler, she has always refused to allow her diminutive stature to get in her way. Xavi Hernández was her inspiration and like the World Cup winner she has spent her whole life at Barça, playing the Cruyff way – so successfully, indeed, that she was named Player of the Match in the 2020-21 Champions League final.

14. Laia Aleixandri

25 August 2000 (21), Santa Coloma de Gramanet

Defender

Atlético Madrid

One of the youngest players in the Spain squad, but several chapters have already been written in her career. The first was her decision to leave Barcelona because of a lack of opportunities. “The first players who emerged from Barça B weren’t taken seriously,” she says. “The youth set-up was ignored and we weren’t given a chance. Ona Batlle, Berta Pujadas, Paula Fernández, me… Since then, I think they’ve realised they have some great youth products, players they can’t let slip through their fingers.” Her challenge was to replace Mapi and Pereira at Atlético Madrid. Job done. Today, nobody yearns for their return.

15. Athenea del Castillo

24 October 2000 (21), Solares

Forward

Real Madrid

“The second they called me, I said adiós to any other team. I’ve been a Real Madrid fan since I was young. I’d pay to play for this club.” That was Athenea del Castillo’s categorical response when asked about her future. The winger has been a revelation for Las Blancas this season, and also took the Arnold Clark Cup by storm with Spain, earning the MVP prize. Remarkably she was not actually a first-choice pick for that squad; she was only called up when Mariona Caldentey dropped out. But it was a breakthrough tournament for her. Ahead of the Euros, the 21-year-old has shown Jorge Vilda exactly what she is capable of.

16. Mariona Caldentey

19 March 1996 (26), Felanich

Forward

Barcelona

Mariona Caldentey is happiness personified. The Barcelona forward always has a smile on her face. Even when she’s injured, and even in the face of the recent loss of her father. “He was a pillar of strength in my life,” she says. “My passion for the game came from him. I miss talking to him after matches; my mum isn’t so up on her football.” Caldentey plays the piano, a pastime she finds therapeutic. She did so during lockdown, far away from her native Mallorca, far away from her family. “My grandmother, María, taught me to play,” she says. “So when I’m sitting at the piano, it reminds me of home, of family, of my childhood. It relaxes me.”

18. Esther González

8 December 1992 (29), Huéscar

Forward

Real Madrid

Esther González is Spain’s great battler. It’s what the forward has been doing since she took her first steps in the game. First in Huéscar, her hometown, then in Villanueva de Algaidas, in Málaga province. Twice a week, she had to make the 500km round trip from Huéscar with her father. She never gave up. The same goes for her Spain career. Despite being the Spanish league’s top scorer, González couldn’t force her way into Jorge Vilda’s plans, and missed out on the World Cup in France in 2019. She kept on scoring, though, and turned the situation around. “She’s a born hard worker,” Vilda says. Her place at the Euros is assured.

19. Claudia Pina

12 August 1991 (20), Moncada y Reixach

Forward

Barcelona

Claudia Pina is Spanish football’s precocious starlet. She started out in futsal, but was quickly discovered by Espanyol. Barcelona didn’t take long to snap up the jewel in their city rivals’ crown, however, and she soon set about scoring a century of goals in just 20 games for the Blaugrana’s youth team. Pina is an age-group world champion, having led La Roja to victory at the 2018 Under-17 World Cup in Uruguay, where she claimed the Golden Ball. Four years on, she’s being talked about as a future Ballon d’Or winner. Alexia Putellas has an heir to her throne close at hand already …

20. Marta Cardona

26 May 1995 (27), Zaragoza

Forward

Real Madrid

Took the Liga Iberdrola by storm in 2021, but a major knee injury brought her rapid progress to a grinding halt. “I’ve become an expert in sports psychology – I’ve had that many sessions!” she says. “And I’ve started sprouting grey hairs. When things like this happen to you, you learn to value what you have.” Right up until the last moment, her presence at the Euros was not a given, but Jorge Vilda knows what she can do. As Cardona looks to make up for lost time in England, she is sure to draw strength from the Virgin Mary depicted on her shinpads.

21. Lucía García

14 July 1998 (23), Barakaldo

Forward

Athletic Club

Lucía García’s story is the antithesis of Claudia Pina’s. García did not start playing organised football until she was in her teens. There was not a team in her hometown, and at the age of 14 she was encouraged by a school teacher to enter trials at Oviedo. Before then, she played with her siblings in the town square. “If they weren’t there, I’d kick a ball against the wall,” she says. “At 14, I would leave home at six in the morning, catch a bus and go to school, then have a one-on-one session; after that, I’d get a train to training, and wouldn’t be back home until midnight.” She’s reaping the rewards of all that effort.

22. Irene Guerrero

12 December 1996 (25), Seville

Midfielder

Atlético Madrid

At the heart of Irene Guerrero’s story is her unshakeable determination to succeed. A lifelong Real Betis fan, she had to set her allegiances to one side when she started out at the club’s local rivals. “I’m very grateful to Sevilla for what they gave me, but when Betis set up a women’s team, I had no hesitation in joining,” Guerrero says. Discovered by club legend Rafael Gordillo, she made her name at Betis. Everything she has achieved she dedicates to her parents, who are both in a wheelchair. “With the situations they’ve experienced, they’ve always taken it in their stride and refused to be fazed by adverse circumstances,” she says. “Quite the opposite: it’s made them stronger.”

23. Teresa Abelleira

9 January 2000 (22), Pontevedra

Midfielder

Real Madrid

Teresa Abelleira’s passion for football comes with her genes. Her father is a well-known coach in Galicia and her brother, also a footballer, was close to joining Real Madrid. Years later, however, it was Teresa who made the move to the Spanish giants, and she is now a key figure at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stéfano. Her idol is fellow Galician Vero Boquete, and she also admires Andrea Pirlo. She seeks to emulate the way he looked after the ball. Jorge Vilda speaks glowingly of Abelleira: “You don’t see midfielders with the ability she has every day of the week. When she receives the ball she takes the move up a notch in quality.”

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