Women’s team may rescue Barça’s season

Barcelona have the opportunity to achieve something unprecedented this season. Yes, hard to believe, considering the current image of the team is that of a debilitated Lionel Messi looking as though he were about to sink into the Anfield pitch.

Still, their pedigree may yet pay dividends. Should FC Barça Femení beat Olympique Lyonnais Féminin in the Champions League final this Saturday, the club will become the first in history to win the men’s and women’s highest European honours.

The only team to even come close to that feat, and play in both finals, is Arsenal. The women’s side lifted their trophy in 2007 but 10-men Thierry Henry and Co ultimately couldn’t beat the odds a year earlier and fell to the unlikeliest of game winners in Juliano Belletti. He was playing for Barcelona.

More than a decade later the Catalans now have a chance to snare that particular nugget of history for themselves.

But is that anything more than a nice-to-have?

Real Madrid would tell you that the only stat of significance is 13 — the number of European cups they’ve earned. It’s six more than their closest rivals, AC Milan.

Since the dawn of competitive football, the only barometer of success has been the trophies the senior men’s side has brought home.

What if that’s about to change?

It could be argued we’re on the verge of a value shift. As the women’s football revolution hastens and teams pour endless millions into their youth set-ups, every aspect of a club is coming under increased scrutiny. This leads to us looking at a football club as a holistic entity instead of a hierarchy.

In an unrivalled age of communication and media it’s been easy to take an interest in everybody that straps on the shirt. A true Manchester United fan will not enjoy watching highlights on Twitter of anyone besmirching the Red Devil logo, no matter the tier they fall into at Carrington. They will also douse themselves in any success that badge brings.

In this context, if we consider all competitions played under the Uefa umbrella, Madrid still sits on top with 19. But Barça are only one behind with 18 and victory on Saturday will draw them level.

It will also set Barça apart as the most eclectic. At the moment they have won five European trophies: the Uefa Super Cup, the Youth League, the European Cup Winners’ Cup, the Futsal Cup and the Champions League. Chelsea also have five — swapping Futsal for the Europa League. Adding the premier women’s competition will carve out a unique space in a new world of integrated club branding.

Thus, when Mariona Caldentey calmly and deliberately pulled up her socks before slotting in the penalty that confirmed a spot in the final, the ramifications rattled far beyond the burgeoning women’s side.

Més que un club (more than a club) is the famous Barcelona dictum. Could it ever ring truer than bringing an entirely new trophy back to Catalonia this weekend?

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Luke Feltham

Luke Feltham runs the Mail & Guardian's sports desk. He was previously the online day editor.

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