FC Barcelona Femení are going to win the Primera Iberdrola this season. There’s no doubt about it. Still, they are coming off an extremely impressive week. On Sunday, they beat Real Madrid Femenino 4-1 in El Clásico, before handling second-placed Levante on Tuesday.
Despite having dropped to third after the weekend defeat and enduring a 4-0 thrashing to Barca on the first matchday of the season, Las Blancas have made great improvements. On Sunday, they did what almost no one has the courage to do and tried to go toe-to-toe with La Blaugrana. Real Madrid pressed high and took the game to their opponents and had only slightly less possession than Barcelona.
But Barcelona are ruthless and have more technical quality than any other team in Spain and are one of the top teams in the world. On the day of El Clásico, Twitter was flooded with two types of fans — fans of Las Blancas and fans of the men’s team who only tuned in because of the occasion. After the match, the timeline was filled with opinions from the latter who belittled Las Blancas because of the scoreline.
What they don’t realize is that Real Madrid Femenino have made great strides. It is their first official year in the competition and they are outperforming even their own expectations. Las Blancas are challenging for second place and are one of the best teams in the country, yet they are no match for Barcelona and that is the fault of Real Madrid Club de Fútbol.
Casual fans of soccer, or supporters who don’t follow the women’s game, don’t understand how much of a gulf in quality there can be between teams participating in the same competition. This is not because of a lack of talent available, but rather a lack of consistent investment.
FC Barcelona began sponsoring Club Femení Barcelona in 1988 and was a founding member of the Spanish League. In 2001, Club Femení Barcelona was incorporated into FC Barcelona. The Spanish League was re-founded as the Superliga Femenina at the same time, but Barcelona wasn’t accepted into the top division. They were promoted in 2004 but were relegated in 2007. They returned the next year and have been in the Primera ever since.
By 2009, Barcelona grew to be one of the top teams in Spain and won the league four consecutive times. 2011-12 was the season they captured their first league title and they did it with a record 94 points. The following season, they became the first Spanish team to win the league/cup double.
Though the streak ended in the 2015-16 season — they went four years without winning the league, finishing second every time — they got back on top in 2019-20. And they will surely win Primera Iberdrola again this year.
La Blaugrana have benefitted from years of investment and have grown together as a team over a long period. They have the chemistry and they have the quality. That is what allows them to be so great. It creates the gulf in class that has them sitting in first place with a goal difference of +73.
The investment and success continue a cycle that only widens the gap between Barcelona and the other teams in the league. For example, Stanley Black and Decker, an American tool company, pay nearly $4 million a year to be Barcelona’s kit sponsor. This has allowed Barcelona to become the first women’s club in Spain to turn a profit. It affords the club the ability to pay salaries from $90,000 to over $150,000, attracting better players to an already stacked squad.
Real Madrid finally decided to invest in a women’s team in 2019. They acquired and merged with CD Tacón for a reported fee of $550,000. Since the initial investment, the club has acquired many players to boost the level of the squad. We have seen how important these signings have been. These players are the reason Real Madrid are challenging for second place in the league.
But one can only get so much return on investment in a short period of time. Real Madrid as a club have neglected the women’s side of the game for far too long. Pumping money into the team for two years will not be enough to overcome the years of investment Barcelona have put into their women’s side.
Getting to Barca’s level with require years. It will take time for Real Madrid to close the gap on their rivals and fans should not fall into the trap of judging Las Blancas’ success against the Catalans’. But the good news is that we are already seeing good returns for such a short time. This should give us the confidence to drive our project forward more assertively.
Real Madrid Femenino are not only fighting in a highly competitive league, but they are fighting against years of negligence from their club. Nevertheless, despite all of this, the players have proven that they are up for the challenge. They have shown a commitment to the club and its demand to be at the top level. Hopefully, the club will do the same — not just now, but for the long run.