Barcelona will likely finish out this season without first choice centre-back Mapi León after she suffered a torn meniscus in training.
León will undergo surgery in the coming days, with the club set to provide a realistic timescale once tests have been conducted. Her absence will be felt by a Barca side which has been plagued with injuries lately.
Fan Favourite: The Rise of León
María Pilar León Cebrián (affectionately known as Mapi) is widely recognised as one of the best defenders in the world. Her versatile, technical approach and left-footedness have made her a mainstay in Barcelona’s line up. Though her contract is set to expire next summer, its renewal, along with that of Alexia Putellas, are said to be top priorities.
León joined Barcelona from Atlético Madrid in 2017. Since then, Barca have won four league titles and two Champions League trophies. León has also picked up individual accolades including a FIFA FIFPRO Women’s World 11 award in 2022, and a Ballon d’Or nomination in 2023.
Nevertheless, it’s León’s animated nature and firmly-held beliefs which have cemented her as a fan favourite. She was a part of the original 15 Spanish players who went on strike in September of 2022 citing the emotional toll the national team environment was having on their health.
Unlike many others, León has consistently refused call-ups since, even missing out on the 2023 World Cup win.Embed from Getty Images
“I can’t go back if the situation hasn’t changed. There have to be changes. I’m not saying that no changes have happened, but I don’t see them.”
León was also one of the two players who left the national team camp prematurely following a forced call-up in September 2023. She has not been called upon since.
In her personal life, León is a fierce LGBTQ+ advocate and has spoken out against homophobia in football.
Barcelona’s injured defence
León’s injury adds to Barca’s ongoing troubles. Three of the four starting defenders from last season’s Champions League final are currently out injured.
As well León, the side is without Irene Paredes, Jana Fernández, Bruna Vilamala and Fridolina Rolfo.
The fitness of captain Alexia Putellas is also questionable, following her withdrawal from national team camp citing a knee injury. Nevertheless, though the two-time Ballon d’Or winner’s injury is not said to be serious.