Aitana Bonmatí: Winning on the Football Field and in Life

Aitana Bonmatí is on top of the world. Again.

Last year in August, the Spanish international midfielder won the FIFA Women’s World Cup with her teammates in Australia and New Zealand, picking up the Golden Ball award as the tournament’s best overall player. Then, at the end of October, Bonmatí was awarded the 2023 Ballon d’Or Feminin during a glitzy ceremony at Paris’ Theatre du Chatelet. The 25-year-old received 42 of the 47 votes cast.

(231031) — PARIS, Oct. 31, 2023 (Xinhua) — FC Barcelona’s Spanish player Aitana Bonmati reacts as she receives the women’s Ballon d’Or award during the 2023 Ballon d’Or France Football award ceremony at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris on Oct. 30, 2023. (Xinhua/Gao Jing)

Now Bonmatí is on the winner’s podium again. On 15 January 2024, the Barcelona ace won the 2023 Best FIFA Women’s Player award at a gala event in London’s Hammersmith Apollo Arena. 

She beat fellow finalists, Colombian forward Linda Caicedo, and her Spanish international teammate, striker Jennifer Hermoso, to the award honouring the outstanding player in women’s football between 1 August 2022 and 20 August 2023. When you add Barcelona’s domestic and European treble in 2023, Bonmatí has experienced a footballing year that she, and many others, won’t forget.

With the Best FIFA Women’s Player award voted for by the national captains and coaches of the world’s football-playing nations, along with those of journalists and football fans, it is a truly representative footballing honour. 

With British online sportsbooks, including some new bookmakers in the UK, making Bonmatí the clear favourite going into the London ceremony, her win was not surprising. The creative attacking midfielder picked up 52 votes compared to Caicedo’s 40 and Hermoso’s 36. Judging by what two Spanish legends had to say about Bonmatí, it’s easy to see her triumphant 2023 season as the first of many to come.

Pep Guardiola, manager of Manchester City’s 2022/23 treble-winning team, had nothing but praise for Bonmatí while comparing her to a Barcelona and Spanish national great of the recent past. 

“Bonmati is a football player who has me completely in love with her for the way she plays. I would say she is like the women’s Iniesta.”

Andres Iniesta, in turn, responded to Guardiola’s comment.

“I am proud that Guardiola compares me to the best player in the world today.”

High praise indeed from two experienced and respected names in the footballing world, but they weren’t the only ones. Two of the multiple winner’s international peers, one from Spain and one from England, defeated by the Spaniards in a Bonmatí-inspired FIFA Women’s World Cup Final last year, were equally complimentary.

Irene Paredes, who has 100 caps for Spain and plays centre-back in Bonmatí’s Barcelona team, knows her well.

“She’s amazing, she’s a genius. She’s a really rare player. She has [a] unique talent.”

Possibly even higher praise for Bonmatí comes from someone tasked with trying to control her in August’s World Cup Final. England defender Alex Greenwood, herself nearing 100 international caps, was as generous as the others.

“Bonmati is one of the best, if not the best player, in the world. She sees the game on a different level and her football IQ is top class.”

Going into 2024, Aitana Bonmatí has the football world at her feet. She turned 25 on 18 January, meaning she could still have the best part of a decade menacing defences and showing off her unique playmaking skills across the footballing world. With 59 Spanish caps, a couple more for her native Catalonia, and 22 international goals already, the girl who, at seven years old, played for the CD Ribes boys’ team, has come a long way.

Her first coach, Oscar Gamez, describes her as “like a tsunami” and “a force of nature” on the pitch. According to Gamez, as the only girl in the 400-player CD Ribes club, Bonmatí had an “effervescence, this character of always wanting and wanting and wanting to go”, setting her apart from the other players.

At 14, Bonmatí was accepted into the Barcelona Youth setup, having to make a 23-mile journey using public transport every day to train at the club. Her former youth teammate Carla Rivera told BBC Sport of the aspiring pro player’s determination to succeed and her unwavering passion for the beautiful game.

“I recall her being extremely demanding of herself, obsessed with sport and driven to improve … There were times when she stayed overnight at my place after late training sessions, and after dinner, she remained engrossed in football-related content on the internet.”

Bonmatí’s passion, determination, and unrelenting drive to succeed eventually paid off. She made her Barcelona competitive first-team debut as an 18-year-old in 2016. Although it was only in 2018/19 that she became a first-team regular, Bonmatí’s progress was constant. After she signed a new contract with the Catalan club in 2022, despite interest from German giants Bayern Munich, the rest, as they say, is history.

Aitana Bonmati has reached the pinnacle of a career that continues to blossom. It’ll likely still reach new heights as the Best FIFA Women’s Player in the World strives for perfection in the game that she loves.

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