Aitana Bonmati became the second Spaniard to win the Ballon d’Or Feminin when she stood alongside Lionel Messi, holding the women’s trophy at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris on Monday.
It was a hat-trick of Ballon d’Or Feminin trophies for Barcelona, with the award going to Alexia Putellas in the last two years.
Though Putellas was in the race for the trophy this year, winning the UEFA Women’s Champions League and the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Bonmati appeared to be the clear favourite to clinch the trophy.
Starting out with CD Ribes and CF Cubelles, which were mixed-gender teams, Bonmati joined Barcelona’s youth structure at 13 and honed her skills with the younger teams to finally break into the senior side in 2016.
On her senior team debut, she assisted Bárbara Latorre, helping Barcelona beat Real Sociedad 5-1 in the Copa del Reina 2016 quarterfinal.
Style of play
Bonmati’s biggest gift is her quick understanding of the game, which aids in her reflexes during transitions and forward runs. Being two-footed only adds to her ability to exploit spaces on either flank of the opposition’s half.
Former Barca (men) and the current Manchester City manager had once compared Bonmati with Spanish men’s football legend Andres Iniesta for the same reason. Bonmati does not always sprint around the park. She scans the field, looks for spaces to exploit and then starts an attack.
The earliest signs of her impact were visible in the U-17 EURO (2015) and the FIFA U-17 World Cup (2014), where Spain finished as champion and runner-up, respectively. Bonmati made it to the Team of the Tournament in the European Championship.
But her presence turned heads in the senior Women’s World Cup in France in 2019 when her attacking runs proved pivotal in Spain’s clash against South Africa.
Coming on after the hour mark, with Spain trailing 0-1, her key passes into the final third helped Jorge Vilda’s side secure a 3-1 win in their opening match.
Spain’s next big player on the global stage had arrived.
Four years later, she scored thrice and assisted two more in a campaign that saw Spain win the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time.
Senior Honours (For club and country):
Bonmati did not hesitate to take a stance when football in Spain got embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of the women’s game, involving the president of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), Luis Rubiales, and the highest goalscorer in her national team, Jennifer Hermoso.
Rubiales, during the celebration of Spain winning the World Cup, had kissed Hermoso without her consent, but later denied that that was the case.
The scandal later, saw Rubiales being banned from Football for three years.
Bonmati, who won UEFA’s The Best award (in women’s football in 2023), dedicated the award to Hermoso, saying nobody should support the ‘abuse of power’.
“I would like to remember what has happened. We cannot allow an abuse of power in an employment relationship. As a society we cannot allow the abuse of power, I dedicate it to Jennifer Hermoso and to all the women who suffer the same. We are with you,” she said, after receiving the award.
Bonmati idolises Johan Cruyff, a Barcelona legend who won 13 major trophies with the club as a player and manager, with her autobiography Totes unides fem força having 14 chapters dedicated to the Dutchman.
Cryuff had won the Ballon d’Or thrice (1971, 1973, 1974). Having won 18 major trophies with Barcelona Femeni, Bonmati looks to be following Cruyff well.
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