Aitana Bonmatí: The Best Player in the World
“I’m feeling great. Very tired, I won’t lie to you,” confesses Aitana Bonmatí to EL PAÍS, as she sits next to her shiny Ballon d’Or on a stool at the Johan Cruyff stadium, in front of Barça’s sports city in Sant Joan Despí. She graciously poses for the media, gives interviews, and walks around her town — Sant Pere de Ribes (Barcelona) — to meet her fans, chat with them, and sign autographs. With each photo, question, and signature, her exhaustion grows. It’s Thursday, but she has lost track of the days since being named the best player in the world last Monday. Despite the media and sporting pressure, the physical weight of the Ballon d’Or does not become a symbolic burden for Aitana. She laughs and says, “It’s quite a lot, but I don’t feel any additional pressure. I already put enough pressure on myself to focus on meeting expectations. I’m already ambitious enough and I push myself to the limit.” It seems like nothing has changed for her, and she doesn’t desire more and more. She firmly states, “If one day ambition disappears, it will be time to leave football.”
Ambivalent Feelings Towards Fame
Aitana doesn’t dislike fame, but she doesn’t particularly enjoy it either. “I simply adapt to it,” says Bonmatí. “I understand that it comes with the territory, that it comes when you achieve success. I am an introvert when I’m around strangers, but very extroverted with those I trust. I try to handle it better,” reflects the Barcelona player. She never loses her connection with her fans, acknowledging their support throughout her entire career. From her early days at the Ciutat Esportiva, on the artificial grass field, to the packed Camp Nou during the most special moments, like the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the 2022 Champions League against Real Madrid and Wolfsburg, with over 90,000 spectators. Aitana feels a deep connection with Barça, and the fans reciprocate that feeling. They have a lot in common. Those close to her say that Aitana has evolved, but her essence remains the same. She emphasizes, “My personality hasn’t changed. It evolves over time and with experiences, but my core remains intact.”
A Week of Whirlwind
Aitana has lost count of the days, often confusing Sunday with Monday and Tuesday. Events, matches, congratulations, and acknowledgments have filled her schedule. She recounts her last week, already crowned as the best player in the world. Her days are usually more balanced, starting with training at the Ciutat Esportiva in the morning, followed by additional training sessions, visits to the physiotherapist, nutritionist, psychologist, and attending various events. However, she always tries to find moments for herself, understanding the importance of optimal rest for her physical and mental performance. Due to her busy schedule, her Master’s studies in Sports Management at the Johan Cruyff Institute have taken a backseat for now.
A Memorable Night at the Gala
On Monday, all eyes were on Aitana. She wore a black dress with transparencies and a brief, solemn smile. When her name was announced, she walked on stage at the gala in Paris. However, the tennis player Novak Djokovic, responsible for presenting her with the award, momentarily forgot about the Ballon d’Or. Aitana confesses, “I arrived on stage not knowing if they were going to give it to me or not, and I went straight to speak. I didn’t know where to position myself.” Standing in front of the lectern, without glancing at her notes, she leaned into the microphones and began her speech with confidence. She explains, “The speech was important. We are more than just athletes. When you have a significant moment, when all the attention is on you, you have to go beyond clichés.” Aitana is fully aware of her role and the impact she can make.
A Nervous Yet Powerful Speech
In the week leading up to the gala, Aitana diligently prepared her speech. She practiced it repeatedly, knowing exactly what she wanted to say and in which languages. She was well-prepared, adding personal touches while maintaining a clear concept. Despite her thorough preparation, she couldn’t shake off her nerves. She admits, “I was nervous about being on stage in front of everyone. Speaking in three languages [Spanish, Catalan, and English], even ones I’m fluent in, is different. I wanted it to go well, and I’m demanding in this area too. Going out to train or stepping onto the field is not the same for me; those are things I do every day,” recalls the soccer player.
A Continuation of Success
Even with the Balloon d’Or accolade, Aitana joined the Spanish national team’s training camp to play against Switzerland. She was part of the starting eleven in a victorious match (1-7), although she didn’t play the full 90 minutes. Back in her hometown, Sant Pere de Ribes, she proudly brought Barcelona its third consecutive Ballon d’Or. Aitana expresses her gratitude, saying, “Bringing the name of Barça around the world is a privilege and a source of pride for me. They have given everything to support me, and I strive to give back. I always appreciate the effort made for me, for my teammates, and for women’s soccer, especially when no one believed in it.” Surrounded by her loved ones, her family, and a new mural dedicated to her, she took the Ballon d’Or on a tour through her town, expressing her gratitude for the support she has received.
Ambitions for the Future
Aitana reflects on her successful year, stating that it has gone well. However, she believes there is still room for improvement and aims to achieve more, such as an “Absolute European” title or participation in the “Olympic Games.” She asserts, “My ambition doesn’t stop here. Every year, I strive to become a better version of myself. I want to continue growing and improving. At 25 years old, I am still young, and I have a long way to go. I will do my best to keep progressing.” Aitana emphasizes the importance of surrounding herself with top professionals and being open to constructive criticism.
Aitana’s Busy Schedule
Wearing a green sweatshirt, jeans, and straight hair, Aitana graciously attended to the media for two hours on Thursday. In the afternoon, she had a Meet and Greet event with her fans, where she engaged with them, had conversations, and signed autographs. On Friday and Saturday, she plans to rest, recognizing its essential role in her life. In just two days, on Sunday, she will be back on the field, playing against Sevilla with FC Barcelona after the national team break. The Ballon d’Or has crowned her year, but Aitana’s determination and ambition remain unchanged. After receiving the award, her parents kept it simple, saying, “Many congratulations, girl.” Aitana justifies their few words, saying, “My parents are not very talkative, especially my father. I know they are proud and have been with me throughout this journey.” For her family, nothing has changed either.