Picture this: a football team wins a perfect league title with 30 wins in 30 games, reaches an European final, wins every domestic trophy available and shatters every possible single-season attacking record for a team.
Then over the summer, that team loses its best player — a two-time Ballon d’Or winner — to a season-ending injury, and their best attacking player misses most of the first two months of the campaign.
Can that team somehow be better? That doesn’t sound possible, does it?
Well, meet the Ethan Hunt of women’s football: Barcelona Femení, who have won the opening 13 games of the 2022-23 season in all competitions with 59 goals scored and only 4 conceded. Yes, these are real stats.
Last week was a statement from them, with a dominant Women’s Champions League win over Bayern Munich in front of 47,000 fans at Camp Nou, a record crowd for a group stage game, and an absolute demolition of their biggest rivals in Spain, Atlético Madrid. At the Wanda Metropolitano, in front of a packed house, scoring six goals.
Jonatan Giráldez doesn’t have Alexia Putellas for the season and Caroline Graham Hansen has struggled with injuries since the year started, but the manager has a very deep squad and has managed it to perfection so far.
The biggest addition has been England international Lucy Bronze, who has changed everything at the back since joining in the summer. Bronze brings a physicality and speed at the full-back position that Barça never had, and has dominated the matchup again pretty much every winger she has faced this season.
Brazilian striker Geyse is playing so well that Asisat Oshoala can’t get playing time, and Claudia Pina went from a nice bench player last season to an undisputed starter who can play across five positions in midfield and attack and add goals and assists from anywhere.
Irene Paredes and Mapi León form the best center-back pairing in the world, and the defensive issues that were their undoing last season feel like a thing of the past as they’ve looked very solid against the best attacking teams they’ve faced this season.
They are better. And their best two players aren’t even around. Look out for Barça Femení.