Primera Iberdrola kicked off this weekend with Real Madrid Femenino slated to play their first official match and first ever Clásico. As expected, Las Blancas were dominated by FC Barcelona. This Barcelona side were undefeated in the league last year and advanced to the semifinals of the UEFA Women’s Champions League.
Despite the 4-0 loss, there were plenty of positives to take from Real Madrid’s performance. Two players really stood out for Real Madrid. Coincidentally, both of these players used to play for cross-town rivals Atlético Madrid. But the players did take different paths to get to Las Blancas.
The first standout was Kenti Robles. Robles was born in Mexico City but moved to the Catalan capital when she was only 12-years-old. She has since become a veteran of the league, having played in the Primera Iberdrola since 2009. Robles started at Espanyol before moving to Barcelona, back to Espanyol, and then to Atléti in 2015.
Robles played with Atleti until 2020, when she reportedly ran down her contract without notifying Atlético of her decision to leave the club. She then joined Real Madrid on a free transfer. She became Real Madrid’s first offseason signing and the first player to join Real Madrid Femenino from their crosstown rivals.
Robles is 29-years-old and a league veteran. She has won six league titles (three with Barcelona and three with Atletico) and four Copa de la Reinas (one with Espanyol, one with Atlético, and two with Barcelona). Robles is one of the most successful Mexican internationals to have ever played in Spain, along with Hugo Sánchez and Rafa Márquez.
Robles started at right back in the match against Barcelona, which is an immediate testament to her quality. Marta Corredera, a Spanish international, was moved out of position to left back to accommodate the Mexican.
But Robles proved why she was David Aznar’s first-choice right back. In the first half, she created almost everything offensively for Madrid. Her best quality was her elite dribbling ability that caused the reigning champions quite a few problems. Robles made multiple dangerous slaloming runs that drew fouls and created a later ruled off goal.
Robles also demonstrated her great first touch which she used to create space to run into. She was always looking to go forward with and without the ball and is adept at taking advantage of the space vacated by the defense. In El Clásico, some of her runs were rewarded and others were not, but those movements will be found with greater frequency as the players gain more chemistry.
Robles was also relatively solid defensively. She did well to keep attackers in front of her and displayed good 1v1 defending. Because of her offensive contribution, she can get caught out, but Ivana Andrés and Teresa Abelleira did a good job covering for her.
Robles was not perfect, though, and it was always going to be a huge defensive test against the likes of Leila Ouahabi, Alexia Putellas, and Jennifer Hermoso running at her. Her biggest mishap came when she did not track Lieke Martens in the box for the third Barcelona goal, allowing the Dutch winger to volley home.
María Isabel Rodríguez Rivero, otherwise known as Misa, was Real Madrid’s other big standout in El Clásico. The 21-year-old Las Palmas native also joined Real Madrid this offseason and has also played for Atletico Madrid in the past, but joined Deportivo Abanca after not renewing with Las Colchoneras for the 2019-20 season.
Despite her youth, she has already won three league titles and the under-19 European Championship, and she looks like Real Madrid’s goalkeeper of the future.
Misa needed to have an outstanding performance if Real Madrid were to get anything from this match and, despite the lopsided scoreline, she impressed. She showed her shot-stopping ability from the start as Barcelona searched for the opener. Misa put on a goalkeeping clinic in the first half. She saved low free-kicks, bouncing headers, shots headed for the top corner, and 1v1’s. Misa was also quick off her line and cut out dangerous through balls.
Barcelona’s first goal came from a deflection, the second from an unfortunate own goal, and the fourth from a well-placed shot that rebounded off of the post and into the net. The only shot that she may have been able to save was Martens’ volley, which she got a hand to.
Misa was also very capable with the ball at her feet. Against Barcelona’s press, Real Madrid did not have much opportunity to play out from the back. But Misa rarely misplaced a pass when Las Blancas tried to do so thanks to her comfort under pressure. Misa displayed this quality in the ninth minute, when Ivana played a backpass as Barcelona’s pressers close in. Ivana had confidence in her keeper and Misa did not let her down, as she played a successful long pass without taking an extra touch.
Overall, Misa was cool and collected, didn’t force passes, and played the ball to open center-backs and fullbacks. When there was space, she was able to recognize it and play vertical balls to break the first line of pressure.
Her ability to spray long passes, as mentioned earlier, was no fluke. Misa was able to launch passes to midfielders and offensive players with surprising accuracy. The only critique that could be made is that she almost always played the cross-body long ball, using her left foot to find the right side of the pitch.
Both Kenti Robles and Misa showed signs of great promise in the first match. Robles proved that she can be a top offensive threat while contributing defensively during her stints at Atléti and Barca. She has also displayed her leadership for the Mexican National team. This combination of skills will be crucial in making Real Madrid a force to be reckoned with in Spanish women’s football.
Misa, on the other hand, is a young goalkeeper who is experienced but can still learn a lot. Nevertheless, she showed that she has the quality to compete at the top level and will strive to be a constant in-between the sticks as Las Blancas continue to grow and solidify themselves as a top side in Primera Iberdrola.