Danger lurks in Barça's sports city. Markel Zubizarreta (Mondragón, 1985) says goodbye. A "dramatic" exit, which comes from attrition, says an employee of the club. The leader, the architect of Barcelona Women, the brain that led the team to achieve 16 titles in his six seasons in charge of the sports area. Among them, two Champions Leagues. Son of the goalkeeper of the Dream Team and who plunged into a dream of achievements and victories to the feminine. And he brought to the Barça house, in addition, players of the stature of Lieke Martens – his letter of introduction in 2017 – Keira Walsh – the most expensive signing of the club – or Caroline Graham Hansen. But now he leaves early: he had a contract until June 30, 2024. Although, from inside the offices, something was cooked that endangered its continuity. From his environment a possible relief was suspected. And he himself sensed it: "As far as I know, I'm not leaving. Now, I don't know what others are thinking." Although, sources close to the club indicate that the decision has been personal, and that the club did everything possible to maintain the figure of the brain of Barça.
The maximum connoisseur of the female market leaves at a delicate moment. With a squad reduced by the five exits and two entrances, the situation around the leaders of Johan Cruyff is not the most favorable, despite the fact that at the football level they are still one step ahead. Nine of the 22 players end their contract in June 2024: Alexia Putellas, Patri Guijarro, Mapi León, Sandra Paños, Lucy Bronze, Patri Guijarro, Mariona Caldentey, Gemma Font, Marta Torrejón and Asisat Oshoala. Many. Key pieces among the 11 of Jonatan Giráldez, who also ends his contract next summer.
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"The club thanks Zubizarreta, who has been instrumental in the creation of the best women's football team in Europe, for his dedication and wishes him good luck in the future, both personally and professionally," Barça said in a brief statement. Since 2017, with Markel at the helm, Barcelona has pocketed 16 titles: including four La Ligas, two Champions Leagues and four Queen's Cups. He arrived two years earlier, in 2015, at the Barça club as head of the women's team. He had football in his DNA: son of Andoni Zubizarreta – goalkeeper of Valencia, Athletic and Barcelona, in addition to the national team – he knew the game under the three sticks. But he left it to dedicate himself to management, and graduated from INEF and a Master of Sports Management.
Zubizarreta, always in the shadows, managed to get Barcelona to play their only four Champions League finals. In them he faced the giants of Europe, such as Olympique de Lyon, which crowns the competition with eight titles and doubles the budget of the Catalan team (10 million euros compared to between 4 or 5 of Barcelona). Under Markel's wings, in addition, four coaches passed: Xavi Llorens, Fran Sánchez, Lluís Cortés and Jonatan Giráldez. Always maintaining the essence of Barça.
Markel's departure had been talked about for months. Last year he wanted to leave the club, and this season too, but he was asked to hold out until after the transfer market. El Periódico de Catalunya advanced that the sporting director asked for his departure before the Champions League final in Eindhoven and that this was imminent. But his departure was denied. And his presence at the Gamper and other events, such as the delivery of medals of the Parliament of Catalonia, made the echoes smaller. He also traveled with summoned in the concentration in Valencia, along with a psychologist of the team. There, in Oliva, everything seemed to indicate that the rumors of Zubizarreta's departure were just that. Hearsay.
But they were diluted in an open secret. And the announcement of the end of his contract has finally arrived, months later. A real undercover protagonist who saw how the female was left out of the structure of the sports organization chart of the male in the official presentation of Deco as sports director of Barcelona. Apart, as one more section. And also how he lost Gonzalo Rodríguez, who had earned his trust for three years in the women's team as Team Manager. But he was eventually fired. Like Jessie Engelhart, Zubizarreta's right-hand man, out of the club after six months in charge. Everything wore Markel down. Everything was destructured around him. Now, it's out. And the danger looms closer than far. After six years building the women's team, something has broken at Barça.
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