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Insight

Top picks

We asked some stars of the UEFA Women’s Champions League to choose their dream five-a-side teams, with just one stipulation: no current team-mates. They didn’t all follow the rules to the letter, but they each came up with cracking sides

INTERVIEWS Romain Balland, Carla Garcia, Judith Tuffentsammer, Jérôme Vitoux, Anna-Sophia Vollmerhausen

Fridolina Rolfö

Barcelona 

Aitana Bonmatí would be first because she is really skilful. We all know how good she is with the ball – she can create chances – but she is a really good defender as well. She wins a lot of balls. She’s an amazing player and it’s fun to see her in training every day, how hard she works. Who else? A goalscorer: Pernille Harder. I’ve played in the same team as her, and she is amazing, crazy good at scoring goals. So, I will put her up front. She is really good with the ball, but she is also mentally really strong. And she gives everything to win. In defence, my international team-mate Amanda Ilestedt. She scores goals but she also defends really well. I will also choose Patri Guijarro, who wins the ball and is also aggressive. Then, I’ll go with someone who is a bit more physical and has speed, so Kadidiatou Diani. And either Amanda or Patri as a goalkeeper!

Sydney Lohmann

Bayern

Merle Frohms in goal – she’s just incredibly good on the line, good at build-up play and is very calm. Hopefully, in a few years I’ll take Mala Grohs. Then, at the back, María León, who’s very good technically, smart and just really good at build-up play. Bonmatí in midfield. A gifted footballer, technically incredibly good, scores goals and distributes the ball. And then, in attack, I’d go with Caroline Graham Hansen, who’s also very good technically and has a lot of skill. And for her dynamism and power going forward, Klara Bühl. Incredibly good finishing. Yes, that would be my team.

Pia-Sophie Wolter

Frankfurt

Alexia Putellas in midfield because she’s very strong at tackling, very experienced and very dangerous in front of goal. Alex Popp up front; she’s strong at heading, covers the ground, presses and contributes defensively too. Felicitas Rauch at left-back. She’s a friend and a very strong left-sided defender. She delivers great crosses and Poppi needs good crosses. Dzseni Marozsán in midfield. Her technique is outstanding, she’s very strong at passing and has a great shot. Merle Frohms in goal because she’s very good at one-on-ones and has good distribution.

Dzsenifer Marozsán

Lyon

Five players to win the Champions League? Alright, I’ll start in goal with Sarah Bouhaddi because she’s a legend. She has eight Champions League titles, a wonderful career. I have such respect for her. I need a good defender, so Wendie Renard. She’s one of the best and I’m just happy to play with her and share the pitch with her. In midfield, I choose Jess Fishlock, Vero Boquete and me. Why Jess Fishlock and Boquete? Because it was one of my best seasons with Frankfurt when we won the Champions League in 2015. We had such great years, and it was such a pleasure to play with them. And then a striker – that’s Anja Mittag. She’s so intelligent. I loved playing with her and she scored so many goals.

Kessya Bussy

Paris FC

I would pick Grace Geyoro from Paris Saint-Germain, Naomie Feller from Real Madrid, Ève Périsset from Chelsea, Clara Mateo from my team and Constance Picaud because we’d need a goalkeeper. I’d pick those players because, first and foremost, I get along with them pretty well and chemistry is fundamental in a football team, especially if I’m coaching. Those players have the same group mindset. Also, they’re all great. Some of them are on the way to becoming great and others are great already. 

Elisa Bartoli

Roma 

Carina Wenninger, because apart from being a great person, she really teaches you the football way of life: professionalism and how to be the complete athlete on the pitch. Plus, she’s got a great block. Another girl is sitting right here next to me: Saki Kumagai, who has great tactical intelligence. She makes anything difficult look really simple and there’s nothing more beautiful than simplicity. Another player I’m really eager to meet and see play is Sakina Karchaoui, who plays the same position as me and is one of the strongest full-backs in the world. I’d be really curious to see how different she is and how much she can teach me. I also like Ewa Pajor a lot. She’s a forward who can really get you in trouble. Another top player is Aitana Bonmatí. I’m really in love with Barcelona and the way they play. So, I’d be really happy to exchange game ideas with her.

She was pure magic. Seeing her play was like watching a masterclass, and she’d be a great asset to have.
Salma Paralluelo

Sakina Karchaoui

Paris Saint-Germain

Five players? Not my team-mates, nor me? First of all, I would have a 1-3-1 formation. In defence, it’s hard. I would pick Irene Paredes. I want a possession game and she’s got good technique and can deliver through balls. In midfield, I’d pick Aitana Bonmatí, with Keira Walsh on the right wing. Both can keep the ball. On the left, I’d pick Katie McCabe. I like her a lot. She’s a great dribbler, she’s also aggressive and the team needs a little bit of fight. As for the striker, can I pick a legend? I would pick Marta. She’s the only player I knew when I was a kid, so I would pick her. I have to pick the goalkeeper too? We can have a legendary six then! For her career, Sarah Bouhaddi.

Sara Däbritz

Lyon 

For a five-v-five, I would pick Christiane Endler in goal. She’s an unbelievable keeper, so I think we’re quite safe with her in goal. Then, I’ll go on with a German colleague from the national team, Lina Magull. Technically very strong. I would pick myself as well because I want to be part of the game! I would choose Bonmatí from Barcelona. She’s an incredible player and could help us a lot on our team. And we need someone who scores a lot of goals so I would pick Vivianne Miedema. I played with her in Munich and I always enjoyed playing with her.

Salma Paralluelo

Barcelona

Cata Coll, because of the confidence and assured feeling she gives to others, and her personality on the pitch. She pulls off some spectacular saves and comes up with some really impressive stuff. Wendie Renard, because she’s a player with a lot of experience, she’s very tall and because of her attitude, character and the reliability she brings to every game. Any striker that comes up against her will be thinking it’s tough. Marta, just for everything she has meant for football. She was pure magic. Seeing her play was like watching a masterclass, and she’d be a great asset to have. Alexandra Popp is lethal in the box. You’ve got to be switched on the whole time because if you lose your concentration for a moment, she’ll punish you. And Sam Kerr. She plays more with her back to you. In terms of one-on-ones, she’s really good and then, in front of goal, her record speaks for itself.

Insight
'Life is about dreaming'

One team in particular has already caught the eye this season. Here, Gaëtane Thiney describes just what it means to lead Paris FC into the group stage for the first time…

WORDS Chris Burke | INTERVIEW Jérôme Vitoux

“I had pretty much given up on the dream of returning to the Champions League,” says Gaëtane Thiney – and who can blame her? The Paris FC captain announced in February that this would be her final season before retiring, and no one back then could have foreseen the extraordinary journey that lay ahead for the French outsiders, one that would end up taking them back to the continental elite.

Thiney thought she had seen it all. A veteran of over 160 France caps, she had last graced the Women’s Champions League a decade before in 2012/13, when she reached the semi-finals with Juvisy – the club’s former guise before it was purchased by Paris FC in 2017. Lyon stopped them on that occasion and the European juggernauts subsequently barred their return, along with emerging powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain. And even though Paris FC booked a qualifying berth by finishing behind that duo in last season’s French top flight, their route to the group stage was still strewn with obstacles.

The sense that something remarkable was afoot began when Paris FC edged past Arsenal in the first qualifying round, toppling last season’s semi-finalists on penalties. Their reward? A tie against Wolfsburg, just four months after the two-time winners had pushed Barcelona all the way in the 2023 final. Thiney herself was on target in a 3-3 draw at Stade Charléty, before Paris FC edged out Alex Popp and Co with a sensational 2-0 victory in Germany. Against all the odds, the unsung outfit from the French capital were through to the group stage.

“Emotionally, we are having a superb season,” says Thiney, who – now aged 38 – has tried to introduce a little perspective for her younger team-mates. “The most important thing is to make them aware they have to enjoy being in the present moment. Sometimes, when we experience something, we get used to it. In the end, thanks to hindsight and the length of my career, you hold onto memories from ten or 15 years ago. 

“You say to yourself, ‘Cool! It’s always like that.’ Whereas, in fact, I realise I’m still searching for moments I experienced when I was 23. I’m lucky to be experiencing it again at the end. It’s not easy for the youngsters because, with a bit of perspective, it’s clear we’re experiencing something unique. I tell them, ‘Enjoy it. Enjoy it.’ I don’t want to be the old-timer stating the obvious, but I really want them to be aware that these are extraordinary moments.”

Thiney can likewise fill them in on how much the competition has changed, both on and off the pitch. “There are more games now and the format is the same as the men’s,” she says. “That’s great. Some teams have big names in their squads, and it gives us the chance to be there with historic clubs, playing at Stamford Bridge, playing against Real Madrid’s women’s team, which didn’t exist a few years ago. 

“Now we say, ‘We beat Arsenal,’ whereas, back then, we would say, ‘We beat Stabæk’ or Göteborg. In terms of media coverage and image, everything is different now. When we have 5,000 young girls at Charléty watching us play against Madrid, those are the moments you cherish. They give you the will to go on and they make the world a bit better. That’s what life is about. We need to take a step back and bring a feeling of lightness to everything. Life is about dreaming. It’s extraordinary to be one of the players experiencing it and playing a role in it.”

Fridolina Rolfö

Barcelona 

Aitana Bonmatí would be first because she is really skilful. We all know how good she is with the ball – she can create chances – but she is a really good defender as well. She wins a lot of balls. She’s an amazing player and it’s fun to see her in training every day, how hard she works. Who else? A goalscorer: Pernille Harder. I’ve played in the same team as her, and she is amazing, crazy good at scoring goals. So, I will put her up front. She is really good with the ball, but she is also mentally really strong. And she gives everything to win. In defence, my international team-mate Amanda Ilestedt. She scores goals but she also defends really well. I will also choose Patri Guijarro, who wins the ball and is also aggressive. Then, I’ll go with someone who is a bit more physical and has speed, so Kadidiatou Diani. And either Amanda or Patri as a goalkeeper!

Sydney Lohmann

Bayern

Merle Frohms in goal – she’s just incredibly good on the line, good at build-up play and is very calm. Hopefully, in a few years I’ll take Mala Grohs. Then, at the back, María León, who’s very good technically, smart and just really good at build-up play. Bonmatí in midfield. A gifted footballer, technically incredibly good, scores goals and distributes the ball. And then, in attack, I’d go with Caroline Graham Hansen, who’s also very good technically and has a lot of skill. And for her dynamism and power going forward, Klara Bühl. Incredibly good finishing. Yes, that would be my team.

Pia-Sophie Wolter

Frankfurt

Alexia Putellas in midfield because she’s very strong at tackling, very experienced and very dangerous in front of goal. Alex Popp up front; she’s strong at heading, covers the ground, presses and contributes defensively too. Felicitas Rauch at left-back. She’s a friend and a very strong left-sided defender. She delivers great crosses and Poppi needs good crosses. Dzseni Marozsán in midfield. Her technique is outstanding, she’s very strong at passing and has a great shot. Merle Frohms in goal because she’s very good at one-on-ones and has good distribution.

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Dzsenifer Marozsán

Lyon

Five players to win the Champions League? Alright, I’ll start in goal with Sarah Bouhaddi because she’s a legend. She has eight Champions League titles, a wonderful career. I have such respect for her. I need a good defender, so Wendie Renard. She’s one of the best and I’m just happy to play with her and share the pitch with her. In midfield, I choose Jess Fishlock, Vero Boquete and me. Why Jess Fishlock and Boquete? Because it was one of my best seasons with Frankfurt when we won the Champions League in 2015. We had such great years, and it was such a pleasure to play with them. And then a striker – that’s Anja Mittag. She’s so intelligent. I loved playing with her and she scored so many goals.

Kessya Bussy

Paris FC

I would pick Grace Geyoro from Paris Saint-Germain, Naomie Feller from Real Madrid, Ève Périsset from Chelsea, Clara Mateo from my team and Constance Picaud because we’d need a goalkeeper. I’d pick those players because, first and foremost, I get along with them pretty well and chemistry is fundamental in a football team, especially if I’m coaching. Those players have the same group mindset. Also, they’re all great. Some of them are on the way to becoming great and others are great already. 

Elisa Bartoli

Roma 

Carina Wenninger, because apart from being a great person, she really teaches you the football way of life: professionalism and how to be the complete athlete on the pitch. Plus, she’s got a great block. Another girl is sitting right here next to me: Saki Kumagai, who has great tactical intelligence. She makes anything difficult look really simple and there’s nothing more beautiful than simplicity. Another player I’m really eager to meet and see play is Sakina Karchaoui, who plays the same position as me and is one of the strongest full-backs in the world. I’d be really curious to see how different she is and how much she can teach me. I also like Ewa Pajor a lot. She’s a forward who can really get you in trouble. Another top player is Aitana Bonmatí. I’m really in love with Barcelona and the way they play. So, I’d be really happy to exchange game ideas with her.

She was pure magic. Seeing her play was like watching a masterclass, and she’d be a great asset to have.
Salma Paralluelo

Sakina Karchaoui

Paris Saint-Germain

Five players? Not my team-mates, nor me? First of all, I would have a 1-3-1 formation. In defence, it’s hard. I would pick Irene Paredes. I want a possession game and she’s got good technique and can deliver through balls. In midfield, I’d pick Aitana Bonmatí, with Keira Walsh on the right wing. Both can keep the ball. On the left, I’d pick Katie McCabe. I like her a lot. She’s a great dribbler, she’s also aggressive and the team needs a little bit of fight. As for the striker, can I pick a legend? I would pick Marta. She’s the only player I knew when I was a kid, so I would pick her. I have to pick the goalkeeper too? We can have a legendary six then! For her career, Sarah Bouhaddi.

Sara Däbritz

Lyon 

For a five-v-five, I would pick Christiane Endler in goal. She’s an unbelievable keeper, so I think we’re quite safe with her in goal. Then, I’ll go on with a German colleague from the national team, Lina Magull. Technically very strong. I would pick myself as well because I want to be part of the game! I would choose Bonmatí from Barcelona. She’s an incredible player and could help us a lot on our team. And we need someone who scores a lot of goals so I would pick Vivianne Miedema. I played with her in Munich and I always enjoyed playing with her.

Salma Paralluelo

Barcelona

Cata Coll, because of the confidence and assured feeling she gives to others, and her personality on the pitch. She pulls off some spectacular saves and comes up with some really impressive stuff. Wendie Renard, because she’s a player with a lot of experience, she’s very tall and because of her attitude, character and the reliability she brings to every game. Any striker that comes up against her will be thinking it’s tough. Marta, just for everything she has meant for football. She was pure magic. Seeing her play was like watching a masterclass, and she’d be a great asset to have. Alexandra Popp is lethal in the box. You’ve got to be switched on the whole time because if you lose your concentration for a moment, she’ll punish you. And Sam Kerr. She plays more with her back to you. In terms of one-on-ones, she’s really good and then, in front of goal, her record speaks for itself.

Insight
'Life is about dreaming'

One team in particular has already caught the eye this season. Here, Gaëtane Thiney describes just what it means to lead Paris FC into the group stage for the first time…

WORDS Chris Burke | INTERVIEW Jérôme Vitoux

“I had pretty much given up on the dream of returning to the Champions League,” says Gaëtane Thiney – and who can blame her? The Paris FC captain announced in February that this would be her final season before retiring, and no one back then could have foreseen the extraordinary journey that lay ahead for the French outsiders, one that would end up taking them back to the continental elite.

Thiney thought she had seen it all. A veteran of over 160 France caps, she had last graced the Women’s Champions League a decade before in 2012/13, when she reached the semi-finals with Juvisy – the club’s former guise before it was purchased by Paris FC in 2017. Lyon stopped them on that occasion and the European juggernauts subsequently barred their return, along with emerging powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain. And even though Paris FC booked a qualifying berth by finishing behind that duo in last season’s French top flight, their route to the group stage was still strewn with obstacles.

The sense that something remarkable was afoot began when Paris FC edged past Arsenal in the first qualifying round, toppling last season’s semi-finalists on penalties. Their reward? A tie against Wolfsburg, just four months after the two-time winners had pushed Barcelona all the way in the 2023 final. Thiney herself was on target in a 3-3 draw at Stade Charléty, before Paris FC edged out Alex Popp and Co with a sensational 2-0 victory in Germany. Against all the odds, the unsung outfit from the French capital were through to the group stage.

“Emotionally, we are having a superb season,” says Thiney, who – now aged 38 – has tried to introduce a little perspective for her younger team-mates. “The most important thing is to make them aware they have to enjoy being in the present moment. Sometimes, when we experience something, we get used to it. In the end, thanks to hindsight and the length of my career, you hold onto memories from ten or 15 years ago. 

“You say to yourself, ‘Cool! It’s always like that.’ Whereas, in fact, I realise I’m still searching for moments I experienced when I was 23. I’m lucky to be experiencing it again at the end. It’s not easy for the youngsters because, with a bit of perspective, it’s clear we’re experiencing something unique. I tell them, ‘Enjoy it. Enjoy it.’ I don’t want to be the old-timer stating the obvious, but I really want them to be aware that these are extraordinary moments.”

Thiney can likewise fill them in on how much the competition has changed, both on and off the pitch. “There are more games now and the format is the same as the men’s,” she says. “That’s great. Some teams have big names in their squads, and it gives us the chance to be there with historic clubs, playing at Stamford Bridge, playing against Real Madrid’s women’s team, which didn’t exist a few years ago. 

“Now we say, ‘We beat Arsenal,’ whereas, back then, we would say, ‘We beat Stabæk’ or Göteborg. In terms of media coverage and image, everything is different now. When we have 5,000 young girls at Charléty watching us play against Madrid, those are the moments you cherish. They give you the will to go on and they make the world a bit better. That’s what life is about. We need to take a step back and bring a feeling of lightness to everything. Life is about dreaming. It’s extraordinary to be one of the players experiencing it and playing a role in it.”

Fridolina Rolfö

Barcelona 

Aitana Bonmatí would be first because she is really skilful. We all know how good she is with the ball – she can create chances – but she is a really good defender as well. She wins a lot of balls. She’s an amazing player and it’s fun to see her in training every day, how hard she works. Who else? A goalscorer: Pernille Harder. I’ve played in the same team as her, and she is amazing, crazy good at scoring goals. So, I will put her up front. She is really good with the ball, but she is also mentally really strong. And she gives everything to win. In defence, my international team-mate Amanda Ilestedt. She scores goals but she also defends really well. I will also choose Patri Guijarro, who wins the ball and is also aggressive. Then, I’ll go with someone who is a bit more physical and has speed, so Kadidiatou Diani. And either Amanda or Patri as a goalkeeper!

Sydney Lohmann

Bayern

Merle Frohms in goal – she’s just incredibly good on the line, good at build-up play and is very calm. Hopefully, in a few years I’ll take Mala Grohs. Then, at the back, María León, who’s very good technically, smart and just really good at build-up play. Bonmatí in midfield. A gifted footballer, technically incredibly good, scores goals and distributes the ball. And then, in attack, I’d go with Caroline Graham Hansen, who’s also very good technically and has a lot of skill. And for her dynamism and power going forward, Klara Bühl. Incredibly good finishing. Yes, that would be my team.

Pia-Sophie Wolter

Frankfurt

Alexia Putellas in midfield because she’s very strong at tackling, very experienced and very dangerous in front of goal. Alex Popp up front; she’s strong at heading, covers the ground, presses and contributes defensively too. Felicitas Rauch at left-back. She’s a friend and a very strong left-sided defender. She delivers great crosses and Poppi needs good crosses. Dzseni Marozsán in midfield. Her technique is outstanding, she’s very strong at passing and has a great shot. Merle Frohms in goal because she’s very good at one-on-ones and has good distribution.

Dzsenifer Marozsán

Lyon

Five players to win the Champions League? Alright, I’ll start in goal with Sarah Bouhaddi because she’s a legend. She has eight Champions League titles, a wonderful career. I have such respect for her. I need a good defender, so Wendie Renard. She’s one of the best and I’m just happy to play with her and share the pitch with her. In midfield, I choose Jess Fishlock, Vero Boquete and me. Why Jess Fishlock and Boquete? Because it was one of my best seasons with Frankfurt when we won the Champions League in 2015. We had such great years, and it was such a pleasure to play with them. And then a striker – that’s Anja Mittag. She’s so intelligent. I loved playing with her and she scored so many goals.

Kessya Bussy

Paris FC

I would pick Grace Geyoro from Paris Saint-Germain, Naomie Feller from Real Madrid, Ève Périsset from Chelsea, Clara Mateo from my team and Constance Picaud because we’d need a goalkeeper. I’d pick those players because, first and foremost, I get along with them pretty well and chemistry is fundamental in a football team, especially if I’m coaching. Those players have the same group mindset. Also, they’re all great. Some of them are on the way to becoming great and others are great already. 

Elisa Bartoli

Roma 

Carina Wenninger, because apart from being a great person, she really teaches you the football way of life: professionalism and how to be the complete athlete on the pitch. Plus, she’s got a great block. Another girl is sitting right here next to me: Saki Kumagai, who has great tactical intelligence. She makes anything difficult look really simple and there’s nothing more beautiful than simplicity. Another player I’m really eager to meet and see play is Sakina Karchaoui, who plays the same position as me and is one of the strongest full-backs in the world. I’d be really curious to see how different she is and how much she can teach me. I also like Ewa Pajor a lot. She’s a forward who can really get you in trouble. Another top player is Aitana Bonmatí. I’m really in love with Barcelona and the way they play. So, I’d be really happy to exchange game ideas with her.

She was pure magic. Seeing her play was like watching a masterclass, and she’d be a great asset to have.
Salma Paralluelo

Sakina Karchaoui

Paris Saint-Germain

Five players? Not my team-mates, nor me? First of all, I would have a 1-3-1 formation. In defence, it’s hard. I would pick Irene Paredes. I want a possession game and she’s got good technique and can deliver through balls. In midfield, I’d pick Aitana Bonmatí, with Keira Walsh on the right wing. Both can keep the ball. On the left, I’d pick Katie McCabe. I like her a lot. She’s a great dribbler, she’s also aggressive and the team needs a little bit of fight. As for the striker, can I pick a legend? I would pick Marta. She’s the only player I knew when I was a kid, so I would pick her. I have to pick the goalkeeper too? We can have a legendary six then! For her career, Sarah Bouhaddi.

Sara Däbritz

Lyon 

For a five-v-five, I would pick Christiane Endler in goal. She’s an unbelievable keeper, so I think we’re quite safe with her in goal. Then, I’ll go on with a German colleague from the national team, Lina Magull. Technically very strong. I would pick myself as well because I want to be part of the game! I would choose Bonmatí from Barcelona. She’s an incredible player and could help us a lot on our team. And we need someone who scores a lot of goals so I would pick Vivianne Miedema. I played with her in Munich and I always enjoyed playing with her.

Salma Paralluelo

Barcelona

Cata Coll, because of the confidence and assured feeling she gives to others, and her personality on the pitch. She pulls off some spectacular saves and comes up with some really impressive stuff. Wendie Renard, because she’s a player with a lot of experience, she’s very tall and because of her attitude, character and the reliability she brings to every game. Any striker that comes up against her will be thinking it’s tough. Marta, just for everything she has meant for football. She was pure magic. Seeing her play was like watching a masterclass, and she’d be a great asset to have. Alexandra Popp is lethal in the box. You’ve got to be switched on the whole time because if you lose your concentration for a moment, she’ll punish you. And Sam Kerr. She plays more with her back to you. In terms of one-on-ones, she’s really good and then, in front of goal, her record speaks for itself.

Insight
'Life is about dreaming'

One team in particular has already caught the eye this season. Here, Gaëtane Thiney describes just what it means to lead Paris FC into the group stage for the first time…

WORDS Chris Burke | INTERVIEW Jérôme Vitoux

“I had pretty much given up on the dream of returning to the Champions League,” says Gaëtane Thiney – and who can blame her? The Paris FC captain announced in February that this would be her final season before retiring, and no one back then could have foreseen the extraordinary journey that lay ahead for the French outsiders, one that would end up taking them back to the continental elite.

Thiney thought she had seen it all. A veteran of over 160 France caps, she had last graced the Women’s Champions League a decade before in 2012/13, when she reached the semi-finals with Juvisy – the club’s former guise before it was purchased by Paris FC in 2017. Lyon stopped them on that occasion and the European juggernauts subsequently barred their return, along with emerging powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain. And even though Paris FC booked a qualifying berth by finishing behind that duo in last season’s French top flight, their route to the group stage was still strewn with obstacles.

The sense that something remarkable was afoot began when Paris FC edged past Arsenal in the first qualifying round, toppling last season’s semi-finalists on penalties. Their reward? A tie against Wolfsburg, just four months after the two-time winners had pushed Barcelona all the way in the 2023 final. Thiney herself was on target in a 3-3 draw at Stade Charléty, before Paris FC edged out Alex Popp and Co with a sensational 2-0 victory in Germany. Against all the odds, the unsung outfit from the French capital were through to the group stage.

“Emotionally, we are having a superb season,” says Thiney, who – now aged 38 – has tried to introduce a little perspective for her younger team-mates. “The most important thing is to make them aware they have to enjoy being in the present moment. Sometimes, when we experience something, we get used to it. In the end, thanks to hindsight and the length of my career, you hold onto memories from ten or 15 years ago. 

“You say to yourself, ‘Cool! It’s always like that.’ Whereas, in fact, I realise I’m still searching for moments I experienced when I was 23. I’m lucky to be experiencing it again at the end. It’s not easy for the youngsters because, with a bit of perspective, it’s clear we’re experiencing something unique. I tell them, ‘Enjoy it. Enjoy it.’ I don’t want to be the old-timer stating the obvious, but I really want them to be aware that these are extraordinary moments.”

Thiney can likewise fill them in on how much the competition has changed, both on and off the pitch. “There are more games now and the format is the same as the men’s,” she says. “That’s great. Some teams have big names in their squads, and it gives us the chance to be there with historic clubs, playing at Stamford Bridge, playing against Real Madrid’s women’s team, which didn’t exist a few years ago. 

“Now we say, ‘We beat Arsenal,’ whereas, back then, we would say, ‘We beat Stabæk’ or Göteborg. In terms of media coverage and image, everything is different now. When we have 5,000 young girls at Charléty watching us play against Madrid, those are the moments you cherish. They give you the will to go on and they make the world a bit better. That’s what life is about. We need to take a step back and bring a feeling of lightness to everything. Life is about dreaming. It’s extraordinary to be one of the players experiencing it and playing a role in it.”

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