In an age where footballers have to be efficient and productive, sometimes watching a player at the top of their game pull off a daring move can be just as joyful as a well-executed pass. Too often players are not instructed to not go for the eye-catching dribble or move but instead, complete the high percentage pass or shot to make sure their team wins. When a player deviates from that norm, producing a moment that has you on the edge of your seat, I’m suddenly reminded of why I fell in love with football in the first place.
The football pitch is a magical place where all shapes and sizes can perform and help a team reach their goal week-in, week-out. Alexia Putellas has been doing this for years but now, with her team on the cusp of completing a historic treble, her performances should be hailed and extolled everywhere.
During the international break, Putellas put in a performance for the ages, underlining just how brilliant she is and why more people need to be watching her play.
alexia putellas is just having fun at this point pic.twitter.com/vMOXEuc3ZZ— andrɘa (@andreaxfc) April 9, 2021
Putellas is the heartbeat of the Barcelona and Spain midfield and usually, she’s the driving force from midfield to attack that her team needs throughout their campaigns. Her passing and set piece technique are what most people know her for but in the above instance, Putellas showed you that when she’s in the mood, and given licence to, she’s capable of producing eye-popping moments like that.
If you love football, you can’t help but admire everything Putellas does on and off the ball. She is the epitome of a midfield general and where she goes, so does her team. She does so almost effortlessly and when she provides an assist or scores a goal herself, she celebrates each moment with the kind of joy that makes anyone watching want nothing but good things for her.
That’s not an easy thing for a footballer to produce in a viewer. More and more watchers now have a more tribalistic view of the game and have lost the love for what a pure football move can create in a person. I have no love for FC Barcelona (loud and proud Real Madrid fan here) but when football is made art, just as Putellas makes it, I have no problem sitting back and applauding it. Alexia Putellas continues to not only show what she can do as a player, making her have no peers in her sport but also has carved a path of her own that shows just how far the game has come along in Spain.
Part of what makes Alexia Putellas so much fun to watch is how effortless her play seems to be. Whether it’s finding the right pass, settling the ball with a touch, ghosting between markers, whatever it is that Putellas is doing, she does so with seemingly endless ease. If there was ever a tine to request a fancam of a player, Putellas would be one of my request just so I could see exactly how she navigates the pitch when the ball isn’t close to her and when it is. What also makes Putellas such an illuminating player is how she makes things easier for her teammates. Her runs, her passes, her positioning, make it that much simpler for those around her and it gives them more space to do what they do best. That’s the hallmark of a great player. Many times, people who have studied the game will say the very best think two or three steps ahead of everyone else and when it comes to Putellas, that’s as evident as it will ever get. She doesn’t need great pace or strength to do what she does, although she can when needed, she uses her footballing IQ to see what others can’t and do what others wouldn’t even think of doing in that space in time.
While playing against the Netherlands, Putellas opened up gaps in and around the Dutch midfield that allowed Spain to dominate the game from the first whistle to the last. Whether she had the ball or not, the now Spanish captain took control of how the tempo of the game would be played out. Through her. When you are as talented and as confident as Alexia Putellas is right now, you can afford that kind of arrogance that allows you to dictate exactly how things should go and still also maintain a level of professionalism that your team mates can emulate.
People tend to view the way Barcelona and Spain play as dull because of how often they look to keep possession and not produce from all of that possession. In fact, against the Dutch that’s exactly what happened as time and time again, Spain’s frontline could not find the back of the net no matter how easy the chance was. However, watching Putellas put in such a sterling performance makes you forget how woeful the strikers are and instead, you leave that game admiring her total control over proceedings and her willingness to try things that others might not. It makes any game that Putellas features worth the price of admission alone when she plays like that. Add to that control a dash of impudence and you know you are watching a player who is on her way to transcending the women’s game even more.
Spain may not be featuring in any major tournaments this year but their showing at the 2021 SheBelieves Cup and their performances during qualification for the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 show that this is an emerging team in Europe that is a level away from truly dominating. Putellas will be at the heart of that rising tide and it will be a pleasure to watch her keep the fun in football alive.