The 16-year-old Barcelona midfielder heading to the Women’s World Cup with Italy: Who is Giulia Dragoni?

Giulia Dragoni's career is progressing incredibly quickly and the 16-year-old is heading to the Women's World Cup with Italy. Here is all you need to know about the Barcelona Femeni midfielder's background and adjustment to life in Spain.

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There seems to have been a shift in mentality from Italy Women’s National Team coach Milena Bertolini as her 23-player squad features a trio of very young stars, one of which has almost no senior experience whatsoever and has represented Italy’s seniors once.

That player is the 16-year-old Giulia Dragoni, a name that has already made history even before being chosen for the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Dragoni has already been on the books of two of the biggest clubs in the world, and now she is going to represent Italy at a World Cup as one of multiple players to watch. Here is everything that you need to know about Giulia Dragoni.

Where did Giulia Dragoni develop?

Barcelona Femeni’s Giulia Dragoni playing for Italy Women. [FIGC]

Giulia Dragoni rose to prominence in the academy of Inter Women, who are not quite one of the top teams in Serie A Femminile. They can be very impressive at times but ended the 2022/23 season in fifth place. Before joining Inter, she was at Cimiano and Pro Sesto as a child.

Despite being just 16 at the time, Inter coach Rita Guarino decided in November 2022 that Dragoni could offer something to the senior squad. She made four appearances in the midfield, although those four games only amassed 92 minutes of action.

Until she came off the bench against Morocco in the final Azzurre friendly before the World Cup, that was her entire senior experience. She may well have got more time during the season at Inter, but Dragoni was soon on the move.

Dragoni signs for Barcelona

Whilst those very close to Inter and Serie A Femminile were aware that the Nerazzurre had a youngster with bags of talent on the books, the wider world was unaware. That was until Barcelona Femeni managed to agree on a fee with Inter for the purchase of Dragoni.

That fee is not known, but Dragoni signed a two-and-a-half-year deal with the Spanish side in January 2023. She became the first foreign female player to become part of Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy.

Considering Barcelona’s senior team won every single one of their Liga F games last season, it says a lot that they deem Dragoni worthy of being a part of the setup that could help the team in the future.

How has Dragoni settled in at Barcelona?

In June, Dragoni gave an interview to Italian website Cronache Di Spogliatoio in which she discussed her first few months at Barcelona.

The quick anecdote of ‘I had just arrived in Barcelona, I had just finished breakfast and as soon as I left the room I found myself in front of [Robert] Lewandowski who was filming an advertisement for a car’ shows how quickly life changed for Dragoni.

She has been a part of the Barcelona Femeni B Team which won the second division last season, with four goals coming from Dragoni.

Talking about the differences between Italy and Spain, Dragoni mentioned the training and the fans: “Here in Spain the training sessions are much harder, but if I have to be honest, the biggest difference is made by the fans. Barcelona have an enormous support and they often fill the stadium. In Italy only AS Roma are able to do that, while in Spain it’s normal to see, there is much more consideration for women’s football.”

Giulia Dragoni in action for the Italy Women’s National Team. (@AzzurreFIGC)

Dragoni was also asked about the fact many have referred to her in Italy as ‘little Messi‘ because of her playing style, but her response was: “Yes, it’s true, in Italy they called me little Messi, but honestly it doesn’t seem like a nickname I’m still able to carry.”

Talking about her first call-up for Italy’s senior side, Dragoni said: “To wear the national team jersey is a great honour, you represent your country. That was at underage level, let alone now.

“In April I was in my room after a game and my father called me, almost crying, to let me know that I had been called up for the senior national team. I didn’t expect it because I thought I would still continue with the Under-19s. That call made me feel important for my family, it was as if it repaid the effort they had made for me.”

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