When Mallory Pugh became a member of the Washington Spirit, it was teased that another player would soon be joining the team and would wear the number 10 jersey. This immediately raised questions of who it would be and who would have the honor of wearing the number 10. On Monday, it was officially announced that Argentine forward Estefania Banini would be returning to Washington for the remainder of the 2017 season.
Banini, the leading goal scorer for the Spirit in 2016, will be a welcomed addition to the Jim Gabarra’s lineup. In 13 games for Washington, Banini had five goals and one assist. She was limited at the beginning of the 2016 season while recovering from a knee injury.
In the offseason, the Spirit announced that Banini would be playing with Spanish side Valencia to start 2017. It was unclear if she would be returning to the U.S. after the Spanish club’s season was over. With Valencia’s season ending at the beginning of June, Banini will be back for over half of the remaining NWSL season.
“Having Estefi return to the Spirit is something we were hopeful would happen last fall,” said Spirit head coach Jim Gabarra in a press release. “We’re looking forward to having her back in our lineup and continuing her impressive development. Her impact will be a big asset as we continue to battle through the NWSL regular season toward the goal of reaching the NWSL championship match again.”
For fans who are unaware of Banini’s playing style, she can be compared most notably to her fellow countryman Messi. Both wear the number 10 shirt and are very quick and skilled on the ball. Banini’s creativity will be a much need addition to the Spirit attack. It is unclear where she will play in the formation, but the thought of her playing alongside rising USWNT star Mallory Pugh is one that should make Spirit fans very excited.
“I am very happy and grateful to be part of the Washington Spirit again. I wish to help them in the best way, and for that I will train very hard,” Banini said. “While I already know the team, all experiences are different and I’m coming with great enthusiasm, wanting to add a lot to the team!”
Banini will join the Washington Spirit pending the receipt of her International Transfer Certificate.