Tuesday, 31 October 2023, 13:20
Spain and Barcelona midfielder Aitana Bonmati has won the international Ballon d'Or for the first time. The award ceremony in Paris last night recognised the best footballers in the world in the 2022–23 season. Leo Messi extended his unbeatable run in the men's game by receiving the most coveted individual award for any footballer for the eighth time.
The 25-year-old took the crown from her teammate in the Spanish national team and Barcelona team, Alexia Putellas, who had won it the past two years. "I'm a bit nervous, I haven't slept for several days. I'm a discreet person, but I'm lucky to play for a great club and have the best players by my side," the Catalan said after receiving the trophy from Serbian tennis legend Novak Djokovic.
"Congratulations, Aitana Bonmatí, on this well-deserved Ballon d'Or that accredits you as the best player in the world. You are, without a doubt, a point of reference for the new generations and a source of pride for our country. Spanish football, once again, at the top," said the Royal Household.
Aitana was the cornerstone of the Spanish football team that won the World Cup in Australia just over two months ago. A starter in all seven of the champions' matches at the tournament, scorer of three goals and two assists her case for being considered the best in the world was unanswerable.
In 2023, she was the most outstanding player in the best national team in the world, but also in the best team of the year in the club competition. With Barcelona, she won the second Champions League in the club's history, LaLiga F with 85 out of a possible 90 points and the Spanish Super Cup. She also scored 18 goals in 37 games, a strong tally for a midfielder.
She has built a career full of awards and trophies, including two Champions League titles, four Spanish Leagues, five Queen's Cups and three Spanish Super Cups, as well as the European Under-19 and Under-17 Championships and the jewel in the crown, the senior World Cup, which has finally taken the seven-year-old girl who started kicking a ball in the village team where she grew up, Sant Pere de Ribes, to the top.
Some 40 kilometres away, in the big city of Barcelona, the career of the player who is now the best footballer in the world on her own merits was forged. She was 14 years old and playing in the cadet category when Aitana Bonmatí arrived at the Barcelona youth academy.
In the club's prestigious academy structure, she played for the first time with other female players, as until then she had always competed in men's teams, on a level playing field, without any difficulty.
For four seasons, between 2012 and 2016, she shone in the Barcelona youth academy until she arrived at the door of the Barcelona first team in the 2016-17 campaign. Eight seasons in the elite squad have since passed in which the Catalan side has become the key power in Spain and also in Europe. She then took that success onto the international stage in Australia in August where Aitana Bonmatí, along with her teammates, brought the World Cup trophy back to Spain.
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