Aitana Bonmati completed a clean sweep of the major individual awards in women’s football on Monday, when FIFA named her the greatest female player in 2023 at a London gala.
The Spain and Barcelona playmaker had a memorable year, winning the Spanish league championship, the Champions League, and then leading her nation to World Cup victory in Australia and New Zealand.
The 25-year-old earned the tournament’s Golden Ball, UEFA’s Player of the Year award in August, and the Ballon d’Or in October.
Bonmati is in top form for both club and country, following in the footsteps of compatriot and two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas.
Putellas was out for the duration of last season due to injury, and she was unable to recapture her best form at the World Cup, when Bonmati ran the show for Spain, which defeated England in the final in Sydney.
Bonmati scored three goals and provided two assists as La Roja won the competition for the first time.
Although later events at the medal presentation involving disgraced former Spanish football federation leader Luis Rubiales took center stage, Bonmati’s brilliance will be remembered for a long time.
It came after a near-perfect season at club level, in which she stepped up in Putellas’ absence to become the creative engine of a powerful Barcelona team that dazzled both at home and on the continent.
In a more advanced position, Bonmati scored five goals and assisted on eight others in the Champions League, finishing as the leading assister by a long shot.
Bonmati, who is technically skilled, is important for Barcelona’s type of entertaining possession game, but he also has an eye for goal.
She enters the box with superb timing and can turn on a dime, leaving opposing players scrambling and creating space for a normally devastating shot.
Current Barcelona men’s coach Xavi called Bonmati a “real perfectionist,” and his mentor, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, likened her to another former Barcelona star, Andres Iniesta.
After entering Barcelona’s famed development system at the age of 13, she led the reserve team to the club’s first ever second division victory before securing a spot in the main team squad in 2016.
Bonmati is an irreplaceable element in a team that has dominated domestically, winning Spain’s top division four years in a row and the Copa de la Reina five times.
The midfielder was awarded player of the match in Barcelona’s first Champions League success in Gothenburg in 2019, scoring as the Catalans defeated Chelsea 4-0, and then player of the tournament when the Catalans won their second in 2023.
Bonmati has began the 2023-24 season similarly, helping Barcelona top the league and their Champions League group, and will seek to lead Spain to the Olympics in Paris.
“(2023 will) be a very difficult year to repeat, due to its uniqueness — it’s clearly going to go down as one of the best years of my life,” she told FIFA in January of this year.
“I know that these awards aren’t earned overnight, they’re the result of a huge amount of work, perseverance, sacrifice, determination and ambition, which sometimes gets me into trouble, because I’m always trying to do better and I’m never satisfied.”