Ona Batlle: “I wouldn’t be at Barça if I didn’t believe we could win the Champions League” | Soccer | Sports

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“Do you have a favorite place in Johan to take a photo?” they ask him. “I’m new here,” she jokes. Although on the field it doesn’t seem like it. Ona Batlle (Vilassar de Mar, 24) left the FC Barcelona reserve team as one of the promising young players due to lack of minutes, and spent three seasons outside of Spain at Manchester United after spells at Madrid CFF and Levante. . This summer she returned from her long exile as her prodigal daughter, becoming an indispensable piece in Jonatan Giráldez’s scheme and winning the national team as world champion.

His ambition, his extreme perfectionism, do not allow him to recognize it. But between eyebrows he is clear about his next objective. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe we could win the Champions League. When I left, it was to grow and return to Barça. I have always had that dream, that thorn in my side,” Ona confesses, sitting in the stands of the Estadi Johan Cruyff.

She arrives tired from training and, despite being in a hurry, doesn’t look at the clock. “I like to compete. But outside of football I am calmer,” she says. And she demonstrates it by moving slowly and expressing herself calmly. A curious contrast to how she plays energetically on the field. “I don’t want to get philosophical,” she jokes at the beginning. But she ends up opening up before the recorder, and showing that behind her perennial smile there were also complicated moments. In 2020 she went to England to grow as a footballer and as a person. A thoughtful decision, locked at home with her friends due to the Covid pandemic, but which marked a turning point in her life. “Manchester had risen to first place and behind it there was a new project. She made the decision crying.

I was scared, I didn’t know what I was going to do there and I didn’t know English. My first year was very hard, she could barely come home. We went secretly for Christmas so that the press wouldn’t find out. But I didn’t sink, and I learned to be alone, so I never regretted it, although there were many moments of crying,” she confesses.

In England she experienced a league superior to the Spanish one, and she returned a more direct and powerful player. “The matches were very physical, with a lot of competitiveness and verticality, the trophy was fought until the end. Here you have to motivate yourself to be 100% and bring out your best version on the field. Many times some teams here lock themselves behind so that you don’t score on them,” explains the world champion.

It was in those three seasons when he became aware that he could dedicate himself to football: “There they treat you with the professionalism that we now have at Barça, but that I had not experienced. With every training session and every game I began to feel like a footballer.” In the Spanish league, however, there is still a long way to go, he acknowledges: “We have to invest more, for all the teams to be professional, especially on the fields. In some we still play on artificial grass. And the fact that they don’t have stands makes it not look attractive on television.”

Ona – always declared as “very independent” but also a family member – had to leave Vilassar de Mar – a coastal town 25km from Barcelona – and her beloved beach. She grew up on the streets of her town, where she still has her group of childhood friends. With some she already played soccer, but before she could sign up she tried skating for a year. “My friends at the time did it, and I asked my mother. Even though I came first or second in some tournaments, I didn’t like competing because I didn’t want to wear the little dresses,” she remembers while frowning.

When he was six years old, it was already clear to him. “I want to be like my brother,” she told his mother. She and him shared kicks with the ball in front of the patio of her grandmother’s house. But those little games were much more than an anecdote to remember. “My brother is the most important person in my life. Since we were little we have been very close. “He guided me to football,” she says honestly. Her brother, Joan, also left home when Ona went abroad. And they returned, by fate or chance, at the same time this summer.

He landed in 2023 in a Barcelona from which he had to emigrate. From 2011 to 2017 he trained in the youth ranks, but without a place in the first team, he left. “They gave me the opportunity, but I didn’t see that he could progress in the way I wanted: playing. The outing that Laia Aleixandri, Berta Pujadas and I had made the club wake up to take better care of the Masia and B.

Now there is more betting,” Ona clarifies. That year he left the beach – to which he so desperately needs to return with his dog to disconnect – and the team with which he had so much fun to go to Madrid CFF, recently promoted to first division, spend a year at Levante and finally fly to Manchester. And although her first year in England was complicated, by the third she had a new home: “she was very settled. It was very difficult to leave that part behind.”

He left one house to return to another. “I hope for a stable life at Barça, playing everything, and being important offensively and defensively,” he confesses. With the return of Fridolina Rolfö, he does not know which side he will occupy, but he feels comfortable in both. He reviews his performances after the games, although with the schedule so tight, he looks for moments of rest. “I’m very hard on myself, even in training. I always go to detail,” he acknowledges.

With her psychologist she works to give more importance to the positive. With the staff, let’s shoot more. “I will always say that I have things to improve. Being the best version of myself is my goal. Now I am at 70%,” explains Batlle.

Ahead, the Champions League quarterfinals against Brann. “I believe and feel that we have the opportunity to compete and win. It will be difficult. But I’ll see us in the final in Bilbao”, he is proud. Ona does not believe that her return was a matter of fate, and she leaves, talking on the phone, with the same calmness with which she arrived. “Things happen, but you make them happen. All the decisions I have made have been to grow as a footballer and as a person. And these decisions are what mark your path. In the end, I chose to return.” Whether it’s destiny or not, there is no chance on Ona Batlle’s path.

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