When Asisat Oshoala was introduced in Barcelona Femeni’s final game of the season against Atletico Madrid, she likely had her mind elsewhere as well as on proceedings at Estadi Johan Cruyff.
The Nigerian had scored 20 goals in the Liga Iberdrola and was locked in a battle with Madrid CFF’s Geyse Ferreira who had netted the same tally. Ferreira started Madrid’s final game against Sporting de Huelva and had a head start on the Super Falcon who may have hoped for a starting berth on the final day.
Admittedly Atletico went into the final game week in third, occupying the final Champions League qualification spot and threatened to put paid to Barcelona’s unblemished league run. Be that as it may, you sense Oshoala may have retained a tinge of disappointment when she was not part of Jonatan Giraldez’s XI.
The forward had scored against the same opponents in the reverse fixture in October, a 3-0 win for the Blaugranes, scoring a 35th-minute goal that opened up the game for a further pair of goals.
As it turned out, those 27 minutes did not affect the Falcon’s hunt for personal glory. She became the first Nigerian to claim the honour and continued Barca’s streak of claiming the award for the third season running, following Jennifer Hermoso’s three-year winning run of finishing top scorer, claiming two representing the Blaugranes.
Twenty goals are undeniably the lowest return since records became available but Oshoala’s return comes with the added context that she was not always first-choice at centre-forward and also had her season hampered by injury, missing eight weeks this term.
The former Arsenal forward’s haul came in 19 league appearances, averaging a goal every 0.95 games, a splendid return by anyone’s standards.
“It's obviously been a team effort to get here, and l can only thank my team-mates and everyone at the club for this achievement,” the 27-year-old told BBC Sport Africa. “We've been working hard all season and cannot stop now because we have another big one ahead of us.
“The focus of everyone has shifted from a league title celebration to preparing for a massive game in Turin.”
Indeed, Barcelona are seeking another European triumph after last year’s dismantling of Emma Hayes’ Chelsea. The Spanish giants’ 4-0 success last year was the club’s first and the nation’s maiden triumph in the competition.
When they take to the field on Saturday to face off with seven-time winners Olympique Lyonnais Feminin, Oshoala and her teammates seek to become the fourth club to successfully defend their title, a feat previously achieved by Umea, Lyon and Wolfsburg.
The encounter in Turin is a repeat of the 2019 final where the French side raced into a four-goal lead inside the opening half-hour to put paid to the Spanish outfit’s dream in their first final.
The Four-time African Women's Footballer of the Year — on loan from Arsenal at the time — netted a late consolation for Barca Femeni, latching onto a through-ball to reduce the deficit but it was unsurprisingly too little too late.
The Spanish side have undoubtedly grown since that final in Budapest and will back themselves to get their revenge against the French giants in Turin.
Oshoala has been a peripheral figure in the irrepressible side’s run to Saturday’s rematch, scoring only once for Giraldez’s side en route to another final and a third in four years. The team’s top scorer could have had a huge say three years back but will look to make a decisive impact against the same opposition that hurt them in 2019.
She already has experience of facing Lyon and, three years later, could right the wrongs of that final and end a brilliant individual campaign on a high.