After making her FIFA Women’s World Cup debut on Monday, Giulia Dragoni is already poised to become one of soccer’s biggest stars. As a midfielder, Dragoni’s precise passes helped the Italian national team score a 1-0 victory against Argentina, giving credence to her nickname “little Messi.”
Although Dragoni was substituted out in the game’s final minutes, her team’s manager, Milena Bertolini, praised her athletic abilities. “Giulia is a talent of Italian football,” said Bertolini. “She was ready and she did well playing in a big stadium.”
Dragoni’s jersey number, 16, corresponds with her age. She’s the second-youngest player to appear at the Women’s World Cup, following South Korean footballer Casey Phair, who is just seven months Dragoni’s junior.
Dragoni earned the nickname “little Messi” while playing for the Serie C soccer club Pro Sesto. She picked up soccer at age 4, joining Pro Sesto six years later. After leaving the club in 2019, Dragoni became part of Inter Milan’s junior team. Her dribbling skills eventually landed her a spot on Inter Milan’s senior team, with whom she launched her professional career in 2022.
She now plays for FC Barcelona Femení, which she joined earlier this year. Dragoni is the first non-Spanish woman to live at La Masia, the team’s residence for youth athletes. Coincidentally, the academy previously trained Lionel Messi.
Dragoni made her debut with the Italian national team July 1, playing in a practice match against Morocco. No goals were scored during the friendly game.
“I have no expectations, I can’t because I’m still so young and I came here to learn and get some experience,” Dragoni told CGTN just a week before her first appearance at the Women’s World Cup. “I have no pressure because I know how my teammates value me.”
Catch Dragoni’s next match on Saturday, where Italy will take on Sweden.