Mark Sampson delighted as free-scoring Spanish star agrees to join Bristol Academy
BRISTOL Academy are adding another Spanish international to their ranks by signing forward Natalia de Pablos Sanchón.
The 27-year-old, pictured, has been skippering Spanish Women's Superliga side Rayo Vallecano and recently hit the 300-goals mark for the club after twice finishing as the league's top scorer.
Pablos is expected to link up with the Vixens in the next few weeks and will be reunited with fellow Spaniard Laura Del Rio, who proved a big hit in her first season at the Stoke Gifford Stadium last year.
"Natalia has played with Laura before and they scored lots of goals together," said Academy boss Mark Sampson. "She has had a tremendous strike record in Spain and averages over a goal a game.
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"She can play either as a forward or just off the strikers and she reminds me in a lot of ways of a female version of Swansea City's Michu – she's a great finisher, good in their air and with her feet. Hopefully she can do for us what he has done for them!"
Pablos has been with Rayo since the Madrid-based club were formed in 2000 and has won three league titles and a national cup in that time, finishing as top scorer in 2008 and 2009 with 24 and 29 goals respectively.
She has UEFA Women's Champions League experience and scored against Arsenal in both the 2010 and 2011 campaigns – although on both occasions the Gunners finished triumphant.
After being part of the Spain team which triumphed in the Under-19 Women's European Championships in 2004, Pablos went on to win two caps with the senior side.
But, like Del Rio, she was among a clutch of international players who fell out of favour after failing to see eye-to-eye with head coach Ignacio Quereda.
Pablos is signing an initial one-year contract with the Vixens and, after also bringing former Bristol striker Gwennan Harries back to the club from Everton, Sampson is confident the side won't be short of strikepower in the new FA Women's Super League season.
Bristol finished fourth last term and shared the best defensive record in the league with Everton, who also conceded 16 times in 14 matches.
But the Vixens scored fewer goals than any other club in the top six, netting 17 times.
"Last season we had a fairly sound record defensively and opposition teams found us hard to break down, but sometimes we just needed a bit more quality in the final third of the pitch to make the most of our good play," said Sampson.
"With Laura, Natalia and Gwen giving us options up front, I believe we can be a force to be reckoned with in that area this season."
Sampson hopes Pablos could be available for the Vixens' first game of the new campaign, their fifth-round FA Women's Cup tie at Doncaster Rovers Belles on Sunday, March 17.