FC Barcelona is known all over the world for its success achieved by talents raised at home. "Cantera" is the term used to identify the youth sections of Spanish clubs, Barcelona's in particular being named the iconic La Masia. The four girl's youth teams at FC Barcelona's academy are some of the best in the world for women's youth development. Older, more established senior players like Vicky Losada and Leila Ouahabi spent their time with the youth teams in the late 2000s and early 2010s. More recently, Patri Guijarro and Aitana Bonmati, who are both twenty-two years of age, are already a part of the first team and regulars for the Spain women's national team.
This current group of B-team players could be the best the club has ever seen. There is first-team level talent at nearly every position. That being said, there has been a lot of talk about Ona Batlle, an ex-La Masia player of six years, and the possibility that she may return to Barcelona. Batlle has clear talent and her signing would be major for Barcelona's defensive issues, but amongst all the talk, the talent of current B-team fullback Jana Fernandez Velasco has flown under the radar. Days ago, the 18-year-old Catalan who has progressed through the sections of La Masia finally signed her first professional contract for the club, a sign of better things to come for the future of homegrown talent at FC Barcelona.
Born February 18, 2002, in Catalonia, Jana's passion for this sport started very early, at the age of six she was already playing in the club in her town, Sant Esteve Sesrovires. She was asked at the age of six to choose between jazz and football- she made her choice without looking back.
Signing for FC Barcelona:
Her evolution led her to be picked up by FC Barcelona, where she played in the youth-cadet category as a defender under the orders of Kiko Meléndez and Irene del Rio in 2014/15. She humbly grew as a player and since arriving at the club, she has constantly exceeded expectations.
Development and Success with Spain's Youth Squads:
Jana has been growing with Spain's youth national teams for years. For the Spanish youth teams she's been put in the center-back position, but when she became a B-team regular in 2017, she was given more freedom to be in her natural position as a right-back. Her first experience came with the U-17s in 2017 when she was fifteen years old. A year after her debut, she played a role in the Spanish team who won the 2018 UEFA Women's Under-17 Championship, the fourth Spanish side to do so. Her talent, her maturity as a player and her leadership qualities didn't go unnoticed by senior club staff, and she was invited to the United States for preseason with the senior squad some months later. Her first-team debut happened not soon after at the 2018 Copa Catalunya, which was also her first title with the senior squad.
In December of the same year, she joined Barcelona teammate Claudia Pina in Uruguay, where they both helped Spain to glory as the first-ever Spanish squad to win any women's youth World Cup. When Jana went to the Camp Nou with her father as a child, she could have never have imagined that she would become a World Champion and be honored for her achievement in the same stadium.
She said the following below when interviewed by Ellas Son Futbol after ending the pre-season in the United States:
"I felt emotion. I have always been very cool when I was little I would see Alexia and the others play, and I was very excited, and of course, to take the first step in a country like the USA with all my idols because ... crazy, of course, a dream fulfilled. It makes you nervous, but I also really wanted and excited. That didn't stop me from enjoying it 100% like I did. Being training next to Alexia Putellas or Mapi impacts you. Logically there is a difference with B, especially the intensity, because at Barça we work the same details of the game, but the intensity is much higher."
When she was asked what could she bring to the team, she answered with the quote below:
"I can bring youth, desire, and enthusiasm, the illusion that we little girls have to take this great leap.
In the field, speed, I come from Barca who teaches you a lot of tactics, to treat the ball well (tiki-taka). Off the field, we all contribute something that makes us a great team."
Jana's Commitment to the Club:
It's never an easy task to succeed at Barca. It requires a lot of determination, commitment, and hard work throughout your time at the club, especially if you are coming through the ranks of La Masia. We have seen quite a lot of players, both men and women, opting out of La Masia and pursuing their careers elsewhere when they can't find minutes with the senior team. Players like Ona Batlle, Laia Aleixandri, and Berta Pujados in 2017 and Helena Barca, Paula Guiterrez, and Aida Esteve this summer all went this route. Only a few have both the quality and loyalty to get into the first-team in their early years and players like Aitana Bonmati, Melanie Serrano and Vicky Losada are all examples of it. As for Jana, she has the right attitude and strong mentality to showcase it for Barca Femeni's first team. Below is a snippet of how she sees herself as a person and a footballer:
“I am a very demanding person, very hard-working and I don't stop until I get what I want. I am not very conformist and every day I try to push myself to the limit. For example, I'm right-handed, but I try to work the left a lot in order to achieve a balance and become more complete as a player.
Throughout her career so far, she has been known for her hard work, sacrifice, and a constant drive to better herself. She will never back down from a challenge. Even though she didn't get any extended opportunities to play for the first team this past season, she believed in herself. Players tend to feel hard done by when they never have chances to play at the highest level. They tend to look for opportunities elsewhere. That's not the case for Jana Fernandez- she stuck with the club she loved and she believed she will succeed soon. That belief is what brought her to sign her first professional contract with FC Barcelona Femeni.
“I started and continued in football because I really enjoy it. It was a way to forget about everything else, to enjoy, and to grow. I was lucky that I was good at it and that has given me more opportunities, but if I didn't enjoy it, I wouldn't continue. ”
Jana treats her teammates like her family. She believes that strong bonds created within the team and the emotions experienced in the field make her connected to them.
"As you enjoy yourself, you achieve milestones and objectives that you had not previously set for yourself."
On July 21, 2018, Jana Fernández received the award for Best Athlete of Sant Esteve Sesrovires in the Sports Night Awards, which are held every year to recognize the most outstanding athletes in her town.
After her success at the U-17 World Cup, she got her first call-up for the first team squad. She made her official debut for Barcelona Femeni when she was substituted in at the 58th minute during their 7-0 win against Madrid CFF. Jana Fernandez and Pina were invited to watch the Barca men's match against Tottenham in the UCL from the director's area and were honored at Camp Nou at halftime for winning the U-17 World Cup. In fact, they were the first women's players from La Masia to win a youth category world championship.
Jana Fernandez is known for her attacking play, pace, stamina, and technical skills. She plays a significant role in linking up with forwards as part of the team’s attacking play. The team relies upon Jana to track back and tackle successfully at the back on any counter-attack by the opposition team. This allows the midfield players and forwards to play high up the pitch, rounding out the counter-pressing strategy for Barcelona Femeni B.
The position that highlights Jana’s skills in this season for Barca B is both her natural fullback position and a more advanced winger position. She covers the back in the defensive phase, often spreading out onto the right-wing where Pina or Bruna becomes the perfect finisher for her short passes in the final third. At times, Jana sends the ball to the wing, gets inside to the middle, and helps with the play in the center.
She is versatile defensively as well and can play both as a center-back and as a fullback. The important aspect that we admire noticing these young players is their adaptability to play in different positions. For example, Candela can play as a right-winger in attack and can also be deployed as a full-back. Claudia Pina can be played as a playmaker, Patri Guijarro can be put in any position of the pitch. This is the reason why Barca are counting on the La Masia players, they know the system and they know the roles in each position. To play for Barca, players need to be aware of the movements of the teammates and the tactical adaptability to switch positions during the course of the game. Jana Fernandez is a player who excels with this understanding of Barca's way of play and can become a great full-back if she has patience and determination to succeed at the Catalan club.
Humility, love for football, enjoyment, perseverance, effort, and of course, talent- this is how the story of a true champion is forged. That's how Jana Fernandez made a name for herself in the youth categories of Spain and Barcelona. She was rewarded for these qualities with a professional contract to play for FC Barcelona.
Jana's words on her contract extension:
"We must continue working and continue learning. I take it with great enthusiasm, I hope we achieve many successes, that we fight for everything and that we are very lucky."
The current group of players like Claudia, Jana, Carla, and Laia are just four of the many young Blaugrana promises. Barca are stamping their authority on the importance of renewing players from La Masia this season. Pina, Codina, Candela, Gemma, and Armengol all renewed their contracts, and soon after came the much-anticipated extensions of Jana and Bruna Vilamala. Barça continues with the strategic framework of giving continuity to those players from the lower categories with high potential. With Barcelona having a hold on elite young talents like Bruna Vilamala, Jana Fernandez, Ariadna Mingueza, Noah Bezis, and Laura Coronado, the future of La Masia again looks bright for the Blaugrana club.