Alexia Putellas became the first woman to win the Ballon d’Or, UEFA Women’s Player of the Year and The Best FIFA Women’s Player in a single year, completing the historic treble on Monday at the FIFA Best awards. But there’s one honor she missed out on, and it’s hard for anyone to explain, though the Barcelona superstar tried her best to make sense of it all on Tuesday.
Putellas, a 27-year-old midfielder, captained Barcelona to an unforgettable 2021, winning the Women’s Champions League, Primera División and Copa de la Reina in dominant fashion. She’s got Barcelona back in the UWCL knockout rounds after bulldozing through Group C and the Blaugrana already lead the 2021-22 league table by 11 points about halfway through the campaign.
No one was surprised to see Putellas named The Best FIFA Women’s Player on Monday. What was a surprise was her omission from the Women’s FIFA FIFPRO World XI, a bizarre selection that included Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan and Marta but not a single player from Barcelona or Canada, the two best teams in 2021.
2021 Women's FIFA FIFPRO World XI
✨ The 2021 Women’s FIFA FIFPRO #World11 lineup:
— FIFPRO (@FIFPRO) January 17, 2022
- Goalkeeper: Christian Endler (PSG, Chile)
- Defenders: Millie Bright (Chelsea, England), Lucy Bronze (Manchester City, England), Magalena Eriksson (Chelsea, Sweden), Wendie Renard (Lyon, France)
- Midfielders: Estefania Banini (Levante/Atlético Madrid, Argentina), Barbara Bonansea (Juventus, Italy), Carli Lloyd (Gotham FC, USWNT)
- Forwards: Marta (Orlando Pride, Brazil), Vivianne Miedema (Arsenal, Netherlands), Alex Morgan (Tottenham/Orlando, USWNT)
Normally at this point, I’d call out how pathetic FIFA is for compiling such a shit list. Carli Lloyd didn’t do much of anything in 2021 other than run sprints, refuse to fight racism, abuse hapless Paraguay and retire. Alex Morgan had a so-so year with eight USWNT goals — the fifth-best return of her career. Marta scored all of four goals for Orlando. Two Chelsea defenders made the list despite having lost 4-0 to Barcelona in the Champions League final. I like Atlético Madrid’s Estefania Banini and Juventus’ Barbara Bonansea, but neither are among the world’s top five midfielders.
Former Barcelona coach Lluís Cortés was quick to call out the fact not a single Barcelona player made the list.
“I’m really surprised by FIFA’s XI,” Cortes told Cadena Ser, translation via ESPN. “It’s absurd that there was not a single Barca player in there. With the 24 players I had at Barca last season, I could pick any side and we would beat the team chosen at The Best. I received as many messages yesterday as when we won the treble. Players and members of staff have also written to me calling it a robbery.”
Putellas was also surprised to be left off the FIFPRO World XI after winning The Best FIFA Women’s Player on Monday, which is voted on by coaches, media and players.
“To be honest, yes, it was a little bit shocking,” Putellas said at a news conference on Tuesday. “It is surprising because the team is decided by the players, we are the ones that vote. It is not just that there was no Barça included after the level we displayed last year and the trophies we won, there was no one from Canada, either, who won the Olympics. That (and the Champions League) were the most important dates on the calendar.”
As for why the list, voted by the players, did not accurately represent the best players, Putellas put across her theory.
“It’s probably to do with a lack of visibility,” Putellas said. “When there are more opportunities to watch the games, many more people will be able to see what we do on the pitch, including the players ourselves, because sometimes it is (still) difficult to see games.”
She’s got a point.
Compared to men’s soccer, women’s soccer is extremely difficult to watch. While it has improved drastically over the last couple of years, WoSo still has a long way to go to catch up to men’s soccer in TV coverage.
It’s a shame too, because anyone who watched the Barcelona women in 2021 was treated to one of the most impressive teams of all time. But across the world, women’s soccer is not easy to find, whether on TV or even highlights on the internet.
Fortunately, there are some who are taking notice. Barcelona’s home leg against Real Madrid in the Champions League quarterfinals, set for March 30, has sold out. And we’re not talking about Barça selling out the 6,000-seat Estadi Johan Cruyff where the women usually play their home games, we’re talking about selling out the 99,354-seat Camp Nou.
— FC Barcelona Femení (@FCBfemeni) January 17, 2022
Should Camp Nou be entirely full on March 30, Barcelona will break the all-time record for attendance at a women’s soccer match, set by 90,185 fans at the Rose Bowl in the 1999 Women’s World Cup final. (The unofficial record belongs to the 1971 World Cup Final between Denmark and Mexico with 110,000 fans.)
The match will be available to watch for free, but only on YouTube via DAZN. Until more matches are more readily available on TV, women’s FIFPRO World XI lists will continue to include massive oversights.