A sneak peek of FC Barcelona Femeni's second signing - Fridolina Rolfö
It is without a doubt that FC Barcelona Femení have one of the best attacks in the world. The two most important players of this attack are easily the winger duo of Lieke Martens and Caroline Graham Hansen, who command either side of the pitch in a regular starting XI. However, when it comes to squad depth, Barcelona have little to compensate for a potential player injury for either winger. Mariona is of course the ideal option, with her versatility in forward positions being the main part of her game. But considering that winger is not her natural position, Barcelona clearly lack an outright backup winger to be able to enter the team and cover all the holes in the circumstance of an injury.
In response to this lack of depth in the winger position, the club have signed Swedish international Fridolina Rolfö. Barcelona fans know her best for scoring the lone goal in the 2019-20 Champions League semi-final, which broke culé hearts and sent Barcelona packing. Speaking of Wolfsburg- Rolfö, like Ingrid Engen, has moved from VfL Wolfsburg to the Blaugrana club on a free transfer. Although she is intended to be a depth signing, Rolfö is a 27-year-old forward with plenty of years of experience. Her inclusion could very well bring competitiveness to her position.
Rolfö's career has been plagued with injuries for the past few years. She has been unfortunate not to reach her peak potential since a metatarsal injury she suffered back in 2016. When fully fit, Rolfö can be one of the best players in the world in her position. However, she was not able to show her potential in the Bundesliga for various reasons, including injuries and being given an inconsistent playing position. Her productivity was fairly mediocre after her 4-year stint in Germany, yet many clubs including Olympique Lyonnais, Eintracht Frankfurt, and Juventus were looking to take in the Swedish player. Wolfsburg's attempt to pin her down to another contract ended in vain as she chose to leave the club on a free transfer at the end of the summer.
Wolfsburg's sporting director Kellermann revealed the reasons for her departure:
"If she is healthy, she is one of the best players in her position. I can certainly understand that after four years in Germany you want to go to another country again. You want to experience a different language, a different culture,"
Fridolina appears to be a person who likes to try new things. That has taken her from a remote part of Sweden (Kungsbacka with 19,057 inhabitants) to a major city like Munich, and now under the wing of one of the heavyweights in global football, FC Barcelona.
When she was young, her role model was her elder sister, Daniella Rolfö. Fridolina Rolfö's playing career began with girls' football in IFK Fjärås, south of Kungsbacka. In 2009, Fridolina took the step to Division 4 side Tölö IF, which was closer to her hometown. She then made a massive step up to play in the Damallsvenskan with Jitex BK and in 2014 moved to Linköpings FC. During her time at Linköpings FC, she played with high-profile players like Pernille Harder, Stina Blackstenius, and Magda Eriksson. One of her defining moments at the club was when she scored a hat-trick on her UEFA Women's Champions League debut against then-English champions Liverpool. In 2016, FC Bayern Munich signed Rolfö, and she stayed for three seasons. In the semifinal of the 2019 Champions League, she faced her current Barcelona teammates, which ended in heartbreak for the Bavarians as Barcelona advanced to their first-ever Champions League final. She exacted her revenge against the Catalans in the following season when she switched clubs to VfL Wolfsburg and scored the match-winning goal in the 2019-20 Champions League semifinal against Barcelona with her new club.
Rolfö has always been a regular feature in the Swedish National side since making her debut under Pia Sundhage. She made her debut for the senior national team against Germany in 2015, coming on as a substitute. She scored her first international goal against Poland in a qualifying match for the 2017 European Championship. With the Swedish National team, Fridolina has won an Olympics silver medal and a bronze medal in the FIFA Women's World Cup 2019. To make things more interesting, she went head-to-head against Barca's current captain Alexia Putellas in the 2012 U-19 European Champions, when Sweden beat Spain 1-0.
It might not be easy for Fridolina Rolfö to adapt to Spanish football, but Barcelona could have some ideas to fit her into their system. Rolfö is not a pure winger. While she started her career as a right-winger, she then went on to play as a center-forward and on the left-wing in both the national team and then within her clubs. Rolfö has one of the most powerful left foot in women's football, but at times lacks accuracy. Her height and physicality will be a good option for Barça to bring unpredictability to the team. During her stint in Germany in the past 4 years, she never had the chance to play for a possession-based team. Both Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich opt for a more direct style, which is totally different from that of Barça. Rolfö needs to adapt to the positional play and make sure that she creates space on the wings, which wasn't the case at her previous clubs.
Like Engen, Rolfö has a difficult task on her hands. She is going to fight for one of the forward positions, which are occupied by some of the finest in the world, with Jennifer Hermoso, Caroline Graham Hansen, and Lieke Martens playing as regular starters. Since she has primarily played on the left wing, she might end up fighting for a place with Lieke Martens who had one of her best seasons at Barcelona. Rolfö being a naturally left-footed player means she'll need to develop an understanding with the world's best midfielder, Alexia Putellas if she needs to adapt to her new role at Barcelona. However, that can't be too difficult a task with a player like Alexia by her side.
Another position that Rolfö could take-off could be the center-forward position. Her aerial presence in the box, pace, and ability to float pin-point crosses would come in handy if Barcelona are finding it difficult to hit the back of the net.
Rolfö could also end up playing in Barcelona's right-wing in order to provide competitiveness for the ever-reliant Caroline Graham Hansen. It would be another option worth experimenting with to see if she would fit well in that position. Since she has a really powerful long-range shot with her left foot, it would be easy for her to cut inside using her favored left foot. If she has the chance to play on Barcelona's right-wing, she will have a lot of opportunities to prove her true potential at Barça, and return to a level that has been eluding her over the past years.
On paper, Rolfö doesn't look like a perfect fit for Barcelona, but we have seen in the past how players have exceeded their expectations against all odds. Players like Kheira Hamraoui, for example, proved to herself and to the fans that she was more than capable of earning a place in the team. Rolfö could follow in her footsteps, and her signing could very well be a pleasant surprise for the upcoming season.