With it announced back in December that banking giants Barclays would be signing a bumper new three-year deal to sponsor England’s WSL, there is no doubt that the women’s game has really begun to skyrocket. Along with Barclays’ hefty investment into the Women’s Super League – a record investment for female sport in Britain – the women’s game has also seen its popularity drastically increase across the footballing globe.
With a world record crowd attendance of 90,000 fans filling the Nou Camp for Barcelona Femeni’s Champions League quarter-final against Real Madrid Femenino earlier in the year, the sky appears to be the limit for the ever-evolving women’s game. On a list that includes a host of the greatest women players to grace the modern era, we have taken a look at some of their most iconic superstars.
Ada Hegerberg – Lyon & Norway
When you take a look into the emerging world of women’s football, a certain Ada Hegerberg certainly stands as one of the most influential female stars of her time. With many regarding the Lyon sharpshooter as arguably the greatest striker in women’s football, Hegerberg was crowned the inaugural winner of the Ballon d’Or Féminin back in 2018.
Certainly cementing her spot in footballing history four years ago, the six-time Champions League winner also spearheaded a Lyon side that clinched yet another domestic and European double last season. A vital part of a Lyon squad that is rightfully regarded as the greatest women’s club side in history, Hegerberg also shocked many earlier in the month as she announced a return to the international stage.
Stunningly announcing her international retirement in protest at a perceived lack of respect for female players back in 2017, the 26-year-old is now ready to make her return. Already racking up 19 major trophies during her remarkable time with Lyon, the whole of the women’s game will undoubtedly be glad to see Hegerberg feature for Norway at Euro 2022 – her first major international tournament in five years.
Alexia Putellas – Barcelona & Spain
While Alexia Putellas might not have been able to prevent Lyon from claiming yet another Champions League crown back on May 21st, the 28-year-old has only underlined her elite status among women’s football. Bagging a consolation strike in the final as her Barcelona side eventually fell to a 3-1 loss against Hegerberg’s record-breakers in Italy, Putellas has only continued on a remarkable rise over recent years.
Claiming her first Ballon d’Or Féminin award in 2021 as she racked up a staggering 186 points from the voting committee, it is no surprise why many across the women’s game have billed her as one of the greatest players of a generation.
Spearheading her Barcelona Femeni side and lifting a sixth Primera División title last season, Putellas is regarded as somewhat of a footballing prodigy. Placed in the Best Female XI of 2010 at just the age of 16 in that year’s Fútbol Draft, the one-time Levante starlet has also continued to set a host of records during her decade-long stay in Catalonia.
Bagging 117 strikes in just 271 appearances for the Spanish giants, Putellas will now be hoping to lead Spain to their first international crown since winning the Cyprus Cup four years ago.
Sam Kerr – Chelsea & Australia
With England’s Women’s Super League really cementing its place among Europe’s elite leagues after some hefty investment over the past two years, Sam Kerr has played a pivotal role in the WSL’s revolution. While the 28-year-old might have had to settle for a third-place finish in last year’s Ballon d’Or Féminin ceremony, the Chelsea superstar once again enjoyed another domestic romp under the impressive Emma Hayes.
Bagging 20 WSL goals last season on route to claiming back-to-back Golden Boot awards, Kerr has received plenty of praise as she dragged the Blues to a league and Cup double during the 2021/22 campaign. An Australian icon after mustering 110 appearances for the Matildas since making her international debut way back in 2009, she also became Australia’s all-time scorer, both male and female, after surpassing former Everton ace Tim Cahill.
Only cementing her spot as one of the greatest women’s players on the planet since arriving at Chelsea two seasons ago, Kerr has also been shortlisted for this year’s Women’s Player of the Year award – an accolade she is very much expected to claim. Notching 42 goals in just her 46 outings in west London, Kerr certainly warrants her place on our list.
Wendie Renard – Lyon & France
While Hegerberg’s goals might have spearheaded Lyon’s charge to another European and domestic sweep last season, there is no doubt that Wendie Renard remains Les Fenottes’ favourite daughter. Often referred to as an “institution” of Lyon’s star-studded squad, the 31-year-old is one of just four women players who have claimed top spot in the ‘100 Best Female Footballers in the World’ rankings on five separate occasions.
Showing no signs of losing her powers and only getting better with age, it is no surprise why Lyon were so desperate to pin their talismanic skipper down to a new long-term deal. A goal-scoring defender who has been the architect behind the most successful women’s side in history, it was announced on May 9th that Renard has put pen to paper on a bumper four-year extension.
Mustering 131 appearances for France since making her debut 11 years ago, she has also accumulated a stunning 31 trophies as Lyon have enjoyed unparalleled success on both the domestic and European stage. Still firmly regarded to be the best defender currently playing in the women’s game, Renard’s 14 Division 1 Féminine crowns also make her the most successful player in Europe.
Pernille Harder – Chelsea & Denmark
After including Chelsea’s Kerr on our list of the top female players from across the globe, it would have almost been rude not to have added the other half of the Blues’ famous attacking duo. Shortlisted for the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award, Pernille Harder has certainly lived up to her reputation since arriving in west London back in September 2020.
Only underlining her status as one of the most talented attacking midfielders in the Women’s Super League, the 131-cap Danish international is a real fan favourite in Hayes’ squad. Receiving a host of praise as she and Kerr helped guide Chelsea to a domestic double this season, Harder also became the world’s most expensive female player following her switch from German heavyweights Wolfsburg two years ago.
With it being reported that the English outfit could have paid in excess of £350,000 for Harder’s services, it appears that was money well spent by the WSL champions. Lifting the UEFA Women’s Player of the Year Award in both 2018 and 2020, the 29-year-old Danish skipper also became her countries leading goalscorer back in September after notching 67 international strikes.