INTERVIEW: TONI DUGGAN
LIVING THE DREAM
Toni Duggan joined Barcelona with the target of reaching a UEFA Women’s Champions League final. Now that dream has been realised, her next goal is to go out and win it
Toni, you moved to Barcelona from Manchester City in 2017. What prompted the change?
I was at Manchester City for a long time and I’d played in the English league since I was 16 years of age, so felt like I was ready for a change. There was no better place for that than Barcelona. I’ve really loved my time here so far. It’s been challenging, but it’s what I wanted.
Have you needed to adapt much, both on and off the pitch?
You have to adapt so much and it’s been eye-opening. I knew it would be difficult, but it’s been a bit harder than I thought. The style in which they play football at Barcelona is different to any other team, so you have to be super disciplined – sometimes you have to sacrifice a little bit of your game for Barça’s style. Then learning the language is always difficult. That’s been a challenge as well but I’ve enjoyed it. I can get by now with the girls.
Was reaching the Champions League final one of the reasons for joining Barcelona?
It was one of my objectives when I moved here. People said: “Man City are a bit more advanced than Barcelona so how are you going to win the Champions League with them?” but I’m sitting here now and I’ve got a Champions League final ahead of me, so it’s worked out well. To be going to a Champions League final for the first time in the history of this club is a massive achievement, but we want to win it now.
You lost to Lyon in last season’s quarter-finals, but have you improved since then?
Everyone went away from that game and knew that Lyon was the next level for us, but this year we’re a lot closer to them. We worked on what we needed to and this year we’re a stronger unit.
Are you looking forward to facing Eugénie Le Sommer – another striker who has had a very good season in the Champions League?
I have a lot of respect for Le Sommer, she’s one of my favourite players. She has everything and doesn’t get the credit she deserves. She’s a great goalscorer, a great attacker, a team player and she creates so many opportunities. It’s great that we can share the pitch together and hopefully I come out on top but, without a doubt, she’s a phenomenal player.
What will it mean to you to play in the final?
I think it’s a special time to be part of women’s football at the minute because we’re always creating history. When we played at the Metropolitano Stadium in front of 60,000 fans [in a league game against Atlético de Madrid], it was a special moment. Now to be sitting here and going to the
Champions League final with Barcelona for the first time is another historic moment. I’m really proud to play that part. Hopefully we continue to create pathways for the younger generations coming through.
And what would it mean to lift the trophy?
It would be massive. We know it’s a difficult game against Lyon, for me they’re the best women’s football team in the world, the most successful, but Barcelona have started to turn that corner now and I think in the next few years we’ll be up there. But to win this trophy would mean the world to everyone at the club – the players, the staff – and we’re going to give it everything. It would be a dream come true to win.
You’ve scored five goals so far. Did you expect to shine so much in the competition?
I’ve played for a long time in the Champions League now. I’ve been playing first-team football since I was 16 at Everton, and we were in the Champions League back then. I think with my experience in the tournament, it’s really starting to show now. I love playing in the Champions League – it’s the highlight of anyone’s club career.
Apart from goals, what else have you brought to the team?
I’m a team player as well, so if I can assist or help the team in a defensive manner, which I try to do a lot, then I’ll be happy. As long as we get the result, I’m really happy to play my part, whether it be scoring goals or helping the team in any way that I can. The teams you come up against are a lot more physical in the Champions League, so I think I’ve brought that aspect to the game.
What do you enjoy most about playing for Barcelona?
The challenge and also the pressure. When you play for a top club like Barcelona, whether it be in the youth age groups, the female team or the male team, you’re under pressure – you’re expected to win trophies. When I’m under pressure, that’s when I’m at my best.