England defender Lucy Bronze believes Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas is deserving of the “best player in the world” prize following her win as UEFA Player of the Year and her role as captain at FC Barcelona.
In the latest edition of FOOTBALL NOW, Euronews spoke to Bronze, who was a runner-up to the Ballon d’Or Feminin in 2019 for her key role in England’s run to the World Cup semi-finals. This year’s award is wide open with 20 players from nine different clubs competing.
Bronze said: “The only thing with women's football is the fact that there are not so many games broadcasted, so a lot of the shortlists, in general, tend to be from players who, (are from the) Champions League final or whatever the kind of national team tournament to the Olympics, this year’s final. So there's kind of a mixture of players and because of that and obviously a lot of Barcelona players with their exceptional season that they had last year. So I think for me, it's probably going to go to to one of those girls”
The Ballon d’Or is probably the most coveted honour by any footballer but it wasn’t until recently that the women’s game has been acknowledged.
“When you look at how women's football has really just been illuminated in terms of not just the talent, but also the sponsorships coming into the game, the broadcasting rights when you see everything aligning like that, I think it just makes sense for the Ballon d'Or to have a women's category.” Says football journalist, Melissa Reddy.
The Ballon d’Or was founded by sports publication France Football in 1956, however, this is only the third year for the Ballon d’Or Feminin after a year's absence due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Norwegian player Ada Hegerberg became the first-ever winner in 2018 and USA striker Megan Rapinoe followed suit a year later after leading her country to the World Cup title.
The magazine puts together a 20 player shortlist from which journalists vote for their favourite based on three things:
1. Individual and collective performances during the year
2. Player class
3. Overall judgment of the player's career
The highest-ranked players from each section will receive six points, with the second-ranking player earning four points, then three, two and lastly, one.
It’s no surprise that 10 of the 20 nominees are Barcelona and Chelsea, players. The Spanish team won their first European title and the Blues became the Women’s Super League champions.
“I know Chelsea didn’t win the Champions League but had a pretty special season last year...Obviously Ellen White [Manchester City player] was nominated off the back of scoring so many goals at the Olympics and doing well there. So I mean, for me, I would like those teams to obviously do pretty well in the standings”, says Lucy Bronze.
A few of the favourites include Barcelona teammates, Alexia Putellas with 32 goals and 21 assists, Europe’s leading striker Jennifer Hermoso with 35 strikes and Lieke Martens with 25 goals and 17 assists.
Chelsea’s Sam Kerr is also on the shortlist with 32 goals and PSG’s Kadidiatou Diani who played a major part in her team’s Division 1 Feminin win.
With bigger attendances and growing TV figures, the women's game has never been in a stronger position, and whilst Barcelona's sensational season sees them as the most likely destination for this 2021 prize, there will undoubtedly be massive interest in this year's competition once again.
The Ballon d’Or Féminin takes place on November 29.