England’s Lucy Bronze will find out on Thursday whether she is the UEFA Women’s Player of the Year.
But she will need to prevail over two team-mates if she is to become the first English player to win the award, with fellow Lyon players Ada Hegerberg and Amandine Henry also on the shortlist.
The award, voted for by top coaches in the women’s game and journalists, can be won by any player representing a club in UEFA’s member associations.
Claiming the award would cap a superb 2018-19 season for Bronze, but can she come out on top – and what are the prospects of her rivals?
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Lucy Bronze – ‘best player in the world’
Right-back Bronze became the first English player – male or female – to be shortlisted for UEFA’s individual award when the top three were announced earlier in August, an accomplishment in itself.
Her fifth-place ranking for the award in 2017-18 was previously the closest any English player had come to winning – the highest an English male player had finished was Wayne Rooney’s sixth in 2010-11.
But 2017-18 was a standout season in an already remarkable career for 27-year-old Bronze.
Like her fellow shortlisted candidates, she won the treble – Champions League, domestic league and domestic cup – with Lyon, lifted the SheBelieves Cup with England and helped her country reach a World Cup semi-final.
Bronze’s biggest draWBAck – in award terms – will be the position she plays in. Right-backs do not have the benefit of notching up the goals and assists that make the stats of strikers and other creative players more eye-catching.
But Bronze is renowned for her technical ability and her striking of the ball, demonstrated by her assist for Hegerberg to score in the Champions League final and also her stunning goal against Norway in the World Cup quarter-finals.
She was named the second best player at the World Cup, behind the USA’s Megan Rapinoe, and received glowing praise from her international manager.
“Lucy Bronze is the best player in the world, without a shadow of a doubt – with her athleticism and quality,” said Lionesses boss Phil Neville after England beat Norway.
Ada Hegerberg – ‘physical and mental strength above the norm’
Norway’s Ada Hegeberg has the statistics in her corner.
The striker scored 20 goals in 20 league games for Lyon last season, she netted a 16-minute hat-trick in the Champions League final – putting her fourth on the all-time scoring list in the competition – and has already wracked up a host of awards.
The 23-year-old won the inaugural Women’s Ballon d’Or last year, was voted BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year for 2019, has been named in three of the last four Champions League squads of the year and was named UEFA’s best player three years ago.
But, while Bronze and Henry were making headlines at this summer’s World Cup, Hegeberg was absent from the global stage because of her refusal to play for her national side – a decision she says she made because of a lack of respect for female players in Norway.
Could a summer spent on the sidelines, while Bronze and Henry shone in France, cost her?
Lyon president Jean-Marie Aulas is among those who think Hegerberg, the youngest player on the shortlist, is an elite striker.
“Ada has a physical and mental strength above the norm. She is on her way to becoming the best player in the world,” she said.
Amandine Henry – ‘natural leader’
All-action midfielder Amandine Henry is in the top three for a record fourth time, but has never won the award. Could this be her year?
If the award were handed out for accolades stretching across a career, the 29-year-old would be a certainty – she won her third treble with Lyon last season and her fifth Champions League.
France captain Henry’s leadership and athleticism are her standout attributes – a combination of grit and finesse.
No French player won more tackles at the World Cup, while she showed her class at the top end of the pitch in the tournament with two goals, including a measured finish against South Korea in the group stage.
“She’s fantastic – I consider her one of the best players in the world,” said former Portland Thorns team-mate Tobin Heath before her USA side met Henry’s France in the World Cup quarter-final.
“She has this competitiveness that is really what I am used to. She is a natural leader and they are lucky to have her as their captain.”
|Differentiating the awards|
|Criteria||2018 winner||When awarded this year|
|UEFA Women’s Player of Year||Best performances – domestic and internationally – by a player playing at a UEFA member club||Pernille Harder||29 August|
|Fifa Best Women’s Player||Sporting performance as well as general conduct on and off the pitch by a player anywhere in the world||Marta||23 September|
|Women’s Ballon d’Or||On-field performance and behaviour on and off the pitch by a player anywhere in the world||Ada Hegeberg||tbc, December|
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