I have to admit that the hardest part about this article was actually starting it. I mean, where does one start when describing a figure as spectacular as Verónica Boquete? Do we start by discussing what a gifted genius she is? Do we talk about her amazing technical abilities and the way she dribbles a ball? Or do we talk about her incredible versatility and how she plays in nearly any position in the midfield?
Do we talk about her accomplishments on the field, or off it? Or do we talk about both?
As someone once said about another footballing genius, imagining football without Verónica Boquete is near-impossible. Boquete has made such a remarkable impact on the world of women’s football and the game wouldn’t be where it is today if it hadn’t been for brave pioneers such as her.
Describing Verónica’s style of play is like trying to describe the color red to a blind person. It is something that you have to experience for yourself in order to fully appreciate it. You have to feel the intensity, warmth, and everything the color entails to understand it.
It is a daunting task to try to grasp the magnitude of Boquete and just what she’ll bring to Milan as a player. And fortunately for the Milanisti, we’ll be able to see it and feel it for ourselves.
‘I have always held that at the moment of my birth, I heard a whistle blow.’
Verónica Boquete is one mind-boggling football player. The most talented players can excel in multiple roles, and the Spaniard is no exception. She can play in the right or left of the midfield, in the pivot, as a defensive mid, or as a false-nine.
The two positions that Verónica has played in the most are that of attacking mid and as a left centre-mid (Wyscout). However, the role where she seems to excel most is that of a trequartista.
To become a successful trequartista, you’ll need a combination of the following: superb ball skills, a good range of passing, and confidence in possession. You also need sublime unmarking qualities and unpredictability.
Verónica has all this and more. Notice that she has the type of close control that will get her out of tight situations.
Even when she’s being ganged up on by three players, she still finds the time and space to get a pass off. Her ability to create space for herself is outstanding and appears to be an innate, natural instinct rather than anything that she’s been taught. Vero’s changes of direction are so devastatingly sudden that it often leaves her opponents dazed and once they realize what is happening, it’s already too late, as she has skipped right past them.
The way she dribbles the ball is quite exceptional. Her low center of gravity allows her to twist and turn with ease, and lets her evade the opposition. She often trespasses the defenses of her opponents by dribbling past them and opening spaces behind the defense. In this vacant space, even a small, frame of seconds is enough for her to look up and find a teammate with a quick pass.
The ability to know where her teammates are at all times and to make precise passes to them is almost prescient. It is also a testament to the extraordinary vision she has as a player along with her great, spatial awareness.
Her vision is exceptional, and she can spot her teammates up the pitch with ease and make pinpoint passes with accuracy.
Verónica doesn’t merely control the ball, rather, she commands it. Her dribbles are reminiscent of the gambettas of the Argentine masters like Riquelme. The way she dances with the ball is reminiscent of a bailando in a barrio. And yet, she is still wholly Galician. It is perhaps fitting that Verónica says that she draws a lot of inspiration from other countries’ playing styles. It seems like she borrows the best elements from all of them and then makes them uniquely her own.
It takes time to develop these skills and to develop this type of football intelligence. Vero has had plenty of time to refine her craft, and she deploys it with devastating effect. She also doesn’t score a lot of goals but when she does, they tend to be spectacular. She has yet to score a goal for Milan and when she does, it will probably be something equally as great, capped off with her ‘pulpo’ (octopus) celebration.
As brilliant as her offensive contributions are, one should not also overlook her defensive contributions as well. She is not afraid to press the opposition, or to get stuck into a tackle.
Boquete excels at pressing her opponents and making recoveries, particularly in the final third. The fact that she’s willing to contribute to the defense is a testament to her exceptional work rate. It’s also what makes her unique, as oftentimes, players who are offensive by nature are reluctant to contribute to the defense.
All of this together makes her the complete package. And when you combine this with football intelligence that is simply unparalleled, then you have one fantastic player.
Her impact on Milan
Though she’s only been here for around four months, Vero has already made a positive impact on Milan.
During her first game with the Rossonere, she was pushed out wide and played as a left centre-mid for the match. Though she was slightly limited in her role, she still managed to exert her influence on the game.
In the match against Roma, Vero managed to complete 77% of her passes and had 40 successful actions in total. She also completed 67% of her dribbles and had 40 successful actions (Wyscout).
She also put on a display, as we got to see her technical abilities in action.
In addition to her fancy juggling skills, Vero can contribute to Milan in other ways. One of the ways she can do so is through her versatility. Boquete’s ability to play in several positions in the midfield has allowed the team to be tactically flexible and secure vital victories.
In the past few matches, we’ve seen her switch from the left to the right as she’s also played as an RCMF. Putting her on the right has allowed her to more effectively dictate play.
At the moment, Milan tends to play in the 3-5-2 formation. Though the team hasn’t always played well, we do get to see her individual qualities come through during these matches. One of Vero’s key qualities is her spatial awareness on the pitch.
Here, she reads the play quite well and then steals the ball off of Stephanie Breitner. Then she uses her superior dribbling ability to keep it away from her.
Before Vero even touches the ball, she’s reading the situation around her. Then she distills that information rather quickly and acts upon it. It’s a testament to her positioning as she needed to be in the right position to break up that play in the first place. It’s also an attestation of her intelligence, as she needed to be able to read the play in order to make this happen.
It would appear, that at first glance, that her role as a DM would be slightly limiting her. The stats, however, tell a slightly different story. When Vero plays as a defensive midfielder, she appears to pass forward better than when she’s at centre-midfield. In that position, she excels at stringing passes together but doesn’t generate many scoring opportunities. She is much more progressive as a DM and better at passing forward from a deep-lying position. She is an efficient, dangerous passer and not one who sprays out a high volume of passes. Vero is the metronome and Milan’s beating heart in the middle of the park.
As you can see from the map below, Boquete is quite adept at passing from a deeper role, the fact of which demonstrates her potential to be a deep-lying playmaker. And by playing from that position, she does a lot to help her teammates get into dangerous areas so that they can generate more scoring chances for others.
Against Sassuolo, for example, though she was deployed as a defensive midfielder, she became an offensive asset. Here, she makes a slaloming run that slices through the Neroverde’s defense before getting a pass off to Natasha Dowie.
Boquete also made the decisive corner kick that landed on Giorgia Spinelli’s head and gave Milan their second goal of the game.
Verónica has managed to accomplish all this while playing a more defensive role. However, being fielded in that position does have its flaws. The most glaring of which is that she tends to misplace her passes in the central and the final third that leaves her team open to the threat of a counter-attack. It’s one of the few, flaws of her game that can be worked on.
Though she has mainly been fielded as a defensive or centre-mid, have seen her fielded in an attacking role at times. During the match against Hellas Verona, Vero was fielded as a false-nine alongside Giacinti in the second-half of the game. We’ve also seen her play as a trequartista twice, first against Orobica in the Coppa Italia, then against San Marino.
Milan changed their formation during that game as well. They switched from playing a 3-5-2 to a 4-3-1-2 during the latter half of the match.
It was then that we get to see Vero truly shine as a trequartista. Her fantastic performance was capped off by her sublime, no look pass to Dowie that secured Milan’s third goal of the match.
It was an out-of-this-world, sublime pass that makes you think that Verónica is operating on a higher plane than the rest of us. She has the right combination of talent, positioning, and intelligence to make plays like this, and she’ll no doubt, enhance Milan’s midfield with her presence.
One could even say that she truly is the embodiment of the fantasista.
Among the many extraordinary things about Boquete is how she echoes the past while simultaneously embodying something new. You see, Bouquete is no ordinary midfielder. Rather, she is something more than that. She is in fact, a fantasista.
To understand just why, one has to first break down the etymology of the word.
The etymology of fantasia lies in the Greek for ‘apparition,’ as (dis)appearance is what fantasia produces with the ball. The word also has ties with Phantasos, one of the Greek gods of dream. That the most common invocation to the fantasisti in Italy is the phrase ‘facci sognare’ (‘make us dream’).
The fantasista has the ‘fantasy’ brain that comes up with unconventional solutions to complicated problems on the pitch. They have the ability to read the game, know how to position themselves, are able make decisions that unlock airtight defenses, and anticipate the opponent’s moves. Vero has all this and more.
In Italy, the fantasista is revered in a world where defensive football is a part of the national psyche. Players who can elevate themselves above such an ethos and can thrive in such a rigid system of playing are seen as priceless commodities.
In the rigid, tactical world of Italian football, the players who can express themselves on the pitch are the ones that stand out the most.
The fantasisti are not merely attacking midfielders. There are plenty of those in football and most of them are just doing their jobs in a bare bones manner. Rather, the fantasisti are the players with exceptional qualities that rise above the rest. They are the players that are so good that they make you dream. They are the ones who inspire you to be better than you actually are. They are the ones who make the impossible possible, and who make you feel like anything is possible [or that you can accomplish just about anything? Alt suggestion]
The most prominent examples of the fantasti are Roberto Baggio and the late Diego Maradona. Vero should be placed in the same category as them. And rather than call her the ‘female version’ of the two aforementioned players, she should be seen as one of their contemporaries. If Baggio and Maradona are the gods that inhabit the Parthenon, then Vero is the goddess that belongs alongside them.
This is best exemplified by her dribbling. Her ethereal movements conjure dreamlike states. When it appears that she is going to run or shoot, she suddenly changes course and moves the ball away from her opponent.
Vero Fancy Feet pic.twitter.com/Da6eJmueEd— Utah Royals FC (@UtahRoyalsFC) August 9, 2019
The reversal of the scenario is akin to the way one feels when they awake from a dream. And it is in the aftermath, in the trippy state between wakefulness and sleep, do you realize what has happened to you. She is not merely a midfield conductor that directs play, but she is also an architect who builds dreams.
It was said that Maradona had three answers to every problem and similarly, Vero has several keys that can unlock any closed door. Whether it’s a prescient, no-look pass to her teammate or the way she stops mid-run to throw her opponents off-balance, she seems to find a few creative ways to solve a problem.
If the fantasista is an artist, then the paintings that they make are akin to totems of resurrected memory. In Vero’s case, she is the embodiment of distilled memories that come together to form an image of something that is quite familiar, while managing to be wholly unique.
And what makes her so unique is that she is one of the rare instances of a fantasista being a woman. There aren’t many creative players of this caliber in the women’s game due to the sexism that has prevented them from flourishing in this sport. The infrastructure to allow more creative players to develop has yet to be fully realized, due to the fact that women’s football is underfunded and underdeveloped. And yet, Vero is one of the few that has managed to rise above the rest. That fact of which makes her rise to the top even more remarkable.
Though comparisons to other fantasisti have been made, there is one comparison that is more fitting than others. And that comparison is to Luis Suárez Miramontes. Suárez was a midfielder who played a great part in La Grande Inter of the 1960s.
Like Boquete, he too was known for his defense-splitting, unilateral passes. He was also a brilliant playmaker who was not known for scoring goals. Rather, he excelled by being a creative player who lobbed balls over the defense and to the forwards.
And like Vero, he too, hailed from the land of Galicia. Suárez once said that he signed for Inter Milan as he wanted to test himself in a new league. After winning nearly everything in Spain with Barcelona, he wanted to see if he could do the same thing in Italy with Inter.
Suárez went on to win the Champions League twice with the Nerazzuri. It is the only trophy he didn’t win during his time at Barcelona.
Similarly, Boquete has also said that she came to Milan to challenge herself in a new league. The hope is that Vero can accomplish similarly great things with the Rossonere, and become the second Galega to make an indelible impact on the city.
Vero has also said that she’d like to win several trophies with Milan. And like a true fantasista, she makes you dream of these fantasies becoming an actual reality.
A Positive Influence
Vero Boquete certainly has many admirable qualities. One is the fact that she is a leader both on and off the pitch. She leads not only through her actions but by example as well.
Verónica is a champion and a competitor who strives to bring out the best in herself, and others as well. Already, we’ve seen this on the pitch as she gives orders to her teammates, and pushes them to do their absolute best. She doesn’t settle for mediocrity, and neither should her teammates.
The psychological effect she has had on the team is similar to the one Ibrahimović has had for the men. However, Vero is her own person and should be recognized in her own right.
It seems that she has already had a positive influence on the team, even if she still has to overcome a few language barriers in the process.
Vero has also shown that she’s not afraid to do the right thing, no matter how great the cost. This is the type of leadership quality needed to bring Milan to another level, and we are fortunate that she’s here to take us there.
In addition to this, she’s already brought a lot of positive publicity to Milan. When her move to the team was announced, her signing was heralded by the likes of Hope Solo and the official FIFA Women’s World Cup account.
Vero was also named to the FIFPRO World XI for 2020. Even if she doesn’t think she’s worthy of the honor, she certainly merits the laudits from her peers. She is also the first Milan player to have made the World XI since Kaká. And by doing so, she has not only brought prestige to the women’s team but has restored that prestige to Milan as a whole. After all, it’s been a while since we could celebrate any of the international ‘best of’ lists and Vero gave us the chance to do so.
Boquete’s signing is also a sign of intent from Milan and proof that they are serious about developing the women’s project. By bringing in a player of her caliber, they have shown that they are building a team that can compete for titles in the near future.
Vero’s signing not only elevated Milan but Serie A Femminile as a whole, as she is the first high-profile player to play in the league. The hope is that others will want to follow in her footsteps and play in the league in the future.
She is the rising tide that has lifted all the boats and will change not only Milan but Serie A Femminile for the better.
As you can see, Verónica Boquete is a complete player. Even though she is in the latter stages of her career, she still has a lot to offer to Milan. Vero has only been here for half a season, and already, she is starting to make an indelible impact on the team.
By working her magic in possession, she has bought the tactics she has learned through her years playing abroad and is now applying them to Milan.
By persevering the way she has, Boquete has changed the world of football as a whole. In a documentary about her for ESPN, Rena Mundo Croshere once stated that “Vero is credited with changing the perception of Spanish women in soccer. And she has been one of the main players on that frontier. So people recognize her for that. Within her short career, she has changed the game.”
She also grew up in a town where girls were banned from playing football. Now, she has a stadium named after her. In Spain, where football is seen as mainly being a sport for men, girls can now dream of becoming players themselves.
Boquete has not only broken down barriers for women in Spain but the world over. We haven’t had many reference points for players in the women’s game and she has been among the first. So, instead of comparing women’s players to their male counterparts, we can compare them to the likes of Vero instead. She is truly a pioneer in this regard, and she certainly won’t be the last. She has paved the way for future idols in the women’s game, chief among them being fellow Spaniard, Alexia Putellas.
Alexia seems to have become the heir apparent and has become Spain’s best player. This would not have been possible without Verónica herself, as she walked so that others could run. Boquete might break down even more barriers, as she has stated that she’d like to coach a men’s team in the future.
Uxío Novoneyra, a celebrated Galician poet, once asked:
¿Irei un día do Courel a Compostela por terras libradas?
Will I go one day from Courel to Compostela for liberated lands?
The line was in reference to his desire to see Galicia liberated from the fascist regime of Francisco Franco. The poem also invokes Galician pride and a love for the land of his birth. Similarly, Vero has liberated players by going from Santiago de Compostela to the lands outside of Spain and by breaking down barriers for women in football. She also embodies that pride for Galicia and that same love of the land from which she hails.
And like Novoneyra, Vero is also a poet. She is one who writes her sonnets across the field and composes beautiful prose through her wonderful style of play.
Óscar Tabárez, the former AC Milan coach, once stated that there is “no room for poets in modern football”. This was said in regards to another fantasista, Roberto Baggio. While there might not be room for poets in the pragmatism of Italian men’s football, there certainly is for the women, as we’ve never really had anyone who could tell our stories or tell them so beautifully.
Verónica is one of the players who can.
In a discussion about the poems of Arthur Rimbaud, Martin Heidegger once said to Jean Beaufret that, “Poetry goes always and increasingly towards what lies ahead, while thinking according to its essence is remembrance.”
Verónica does this by echoing the past, while simultaneously moving us towards the future.
There is an undeniable strength, beauty, form, and structure she embodies. She is the poet who will write the story that will move us forward.
She is a brilliant artist who crafts beautiful stanzas on the pitch. And we can’t wait to see the next chapter she’ll write as she composes it with Milan.