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Ona Batlle: The 22-year-old holding down a starting spot at Manchester United

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Defenders usually start older, right? Well, despite formerly playing as a winger, Ona Batlle is a 22-year-old right-back and has already nailed down a starting berth at Manchester United Women’s team and Spain women’s national football team. How? Well, let’s have a look at the career of the former La Masia prodigy, and have a brief look at what could be next for her.

LA MASIA – YOUTH CAREER

Ona Batlle grew up in coastal Catalonia, in a town called Vilassar de Mar, which has a population just shy of twenty thousand, and played at a football club with a homonymous name to the town, where the likes of Leila Ouahabi played before her, despite the pair being 7 years apart.

In 2011, a young Ona Batlle was scouted by FC Barcelona during a match with Catalona’s under-12s. Most kids dream, right? Many who have been gifted enough in recent years have never achieved their potential, but not Ona. She progressed through the ranks and then went onto Barcelona B, which moved her into the senior game.

BARCELONA – NO PATHWAY

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When she joined Barcelona B, they played in the Segunda Division, and had just finished 2nd in their group, which would have put them in the race for ‘best runner-up’, but due to the fact that they already had a team in the Primera Division, they were ineligible.

So, Batlle was going into a strong team, and only helped strengthen it, as they finished first in their group twice, which would have put them into the automatic playoffs. However, Ona Batlle left La Blaugrana due to a lack of opportunities in the first team, as they changed their focus to recruiting big-name players, immediately pushing out the likes of Laia Aleixandri and Berta Pujadas.

MADRID CFF – STARTING IN THE PRIMERA DIVISION

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Due to Batlle’s yearning for first-team football, she joined Madrid CFF in the summer of 2017, the club’s first signing following their promotion to the Primera División, stating, “The signing of the talented Catalan winger reinforces Madrid CFF’s commitment to having most of the young Spanish talent in this sport. Welcome, Ona!!”

Ona Batlle cemented her place as a starter during the season, playing in 28 of the 30 league matches including 26 starts as Madrid CFF ended their first Primera División campaign mid-table in tenth place. However, she only stayed in Madrid for one season, deciding to move to Levante for the 18/19 season.

MANCHESTER UNITED – WHERE STARS ARE BORN

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So, after leaving Levante, she set her sights outside Spain, and to England, with Batlle saying, “It’s an honour and a pleasure to sign for Manchester United; to work with Casey and be a part of this team is a fantastic opportunity. To have the chance to come over to play in England and really push myself as a player is very exciting. I can’t wait to meet my new team-mates and help contribute to as much success as I can.”

Casey Stoney was also happy about the signing, saying, “Ona is an exciting young full-back with fantastic pace and a real attacking mindset, her style of play fits perfectly with the philosophy we have at the club. She is a hard worker and broke into the senior Spain side last year which shows the talent she possesses and I know she will have a great impact for us. It’s fantastic to have Ona join the club and we’re looking forward to working with her.”

She signed a two-year contract with an option for a third with the Red Devils. In total, Batlle appeared in 85% of games during her debut campaign and was named Man United’s Player of the Season. She has stayed on for this season (2021/22), but her long-term future remains in doubt, as her initial contract now allows her to leave in the summer.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR ONA?

Firstly, I think that we should establish that it is possible for Ona to stay at United, even past her optional extra year. There’s a rebuilding project going on at United, which could include a new stadium (something which I’ve previously done an article on which you can read HERE!), and something which involves star players, such as Jackie Groenen, Ella Toone, Mary Earps and Alessia Russo.

But there is a chance that she does move in the summer, and if so, where to? Well, if she does move, it’ll be to a Champions League level club. She could go back to Barcelona to compete with Marta Torrejón at right-back (considering she’s 32) or could try and get a first choice role at somewhere like Juventus, who have already shown signs that they want to improve their squad this summer. Either way, Ona Batlle has got a brilliant career ahead of her, so let’s see where it goes.

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