FC Barcelona Femení's most recent generation of youth team graduates have garnered a lot of attention for their attacking firepower, but La Masia has also provided much-needed defensive security for the club's senior side. Due to injury or lack of defensive depth, Lluís Cortés has chosen to rely on the versatility and confidence of the promising center-back Laia Codina Panedas. At 20 years old, she has been the perfect substitute for the setbacks caused by injuries this season, completing 5 games with the first team. Codina is yet another addition to the list of players who's quality stands out from the Barça quarry.
Codina started playing football at the age of 4 for UD Cassà, a club located in the city of Cassà de la Selva in the Province of Girona. At UD Cassà, she briefly played in mixed boys and girls teams, helping her become a more versatile player. She typically started in midfield but moved to center-back position when Arnau Comas, a current Barça B men’s player, was in the midfield.
As she grew up with the club, she would play in midfield, in the center of defense, or on the wing, depending on the game She played at the club for 10 years before eventually moving onto FC Barcelona. At the end of her tenure at UD Cassà, she received a plaque from the club thanking her for her hard work and dedication to the organization.
Move to FC Barcelona:
She was already in her last year with children at Cassà, looking for a way to continue playing football. She received an email at the end of November 2014, when Barça offered her an opportunity to train for two days at their facilities- December 3 and 10. In January 2015, the club asked her to continue her playing career with the youth-cadet section. Here is an interview she gave to a local TV channel on signing for FC Barcelona.
I think I was not aware, because I am also a culé since I was little, I have been a member since I was 8 years old. I don't miss a game, I cry when Barça loses a final, but I think my mother, and my family in general, was more aware than I was. It was a bit: "well, I'm going to Barça to see what happens." That it is the club of my dreams, but I was not as aware as my father or mother.
Laia wasted no time in establishing herself with the club as a player who is versatile in any position of defense. Her arrival in the 2015/2016 season provided the youth-cadet section with much-needed qualities beyond her young age. In football, nothing is presented easily, it has to be earned. At Barça, Laila has learned what real football is, what's natural to her. In the end, she perfectly fits Barça's style. Additionally, she has the values of humility which is a very important trait to have when you play for Barcelona. Whenever she gets into the pitch with her teammates from Barca Femení B, she never misses to high-five them before the start of the match.
With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that her main reference is Puyol, one of the most respected figures in football for his leadership abilities and humility.
Puyol. I identify very much, because he is someone who has the colors of Barça in his heart, he also carries the fight as something internal, in the blood, and he has given everything in every game, if something had to be broken, he would break it. I'm quite similar in that regard. I am not afraid and to achieve a goal I would do anything.
Her reward for hard work and the recognition of her emerging quality came with a first-team contract at the end of the season. After making herself an indisputable piece in the ranks of Barça B Femení, Laia Codina will start the next season under the command of Lluís Cortés with the first team. The Catalan will hopefully transition well into her new role as a senior player and grow consistency through FCB Femení. Step by step with her feet, she begins to draw a path in which she will undoubtedly end up leaving her mark. At the moment she is on the right track: on October 13, she made her debut in Primera Iberdrola, and just four days later, she debuted in the UEFA Women's Champions League against FK Minsk.
Laia on her role as a captain for FC Barcelona:
"A lot of responsibility. When the Catalans think of a captain we think of Xavi, Puyol or Vicky Losada, who are people who have been here for many years, who feel the colors of the club, who you see they do it with great responsibility, with great pride, I tried the same thing in some way. I loved it when they told me I would be a captain, but I assumed it normally, and in the end it is not a big deal, if they give it to you it is for something. Keep doing the same thing you did the year before, and that's what I did."
Personal Setbacks and Overcoming Anxiety:
During her early days when she was playing for the Catalan U12 team, she had a terrible time as she was a very nervous person, had a lot of anxiety, and had to go to specialists to overcome them. She suffered the same during her first year with Youth-Cadet, because of the pressure of playing for a club like Barcelona. She spent three or four years going to a specialist which improved her mental health during her second/third year in Barcelona. She started to grow from there and those years of anxiety and fear have now been eased to make way for her becoming the fearless leader that she is today.
Relentless from behind, the Catalan is immersed in one of the sweetest moments of her career. Rocked in the legendary generation of 2000, the Girona born player will proudly defend the first team next season. Laia Codina lead a season of memorable performances with Barça B Femení to guide the squad towards a third-place finish in Reto Iberdrola. Strengthening her authority as a central player, Laia returned to anoint herself in Jordi Ventura's side as a key piece. Despite not being able to win the league, the third place in the group helped Barça B Femení remain in the Reto Iberdrola with good standing to improve for the next season while bringing in more youth talents.
Renewal for FC Barcelona:
In June 2020, Laia renewed her contract at FC Barcelona for two more years, rightfully promoting her to the first team dynamics from the 2020/21 season. Laia Codina expressed her thoughts in the quote below:
"I am very happy to announce my renewal and to continue defending this shield for two more seasons as I have done so far. I want to thank this team for the trust and the opportunity to continue enjoying and growing as a footballer"
Awarded in 2018 as one of the young promises of Girona football, Laia will now try to provide the first team with quality. Qualified with exemplary skills, the influence of central figures such as Mapi León and Andrea Pereira or the seniority of Melanie Serrano will be an essential aid in the progression of Laia, one of the most outstanding players coming through 'La Masia'.
Quick to move and cover the pitch with immaculate speed to suppress the attack, the Barça central defender counts the days until she has a true opportunity to demonstrate her potential with the first team. The Estadi Johan Cruyff is already beckoning her presence.