Sam Kerr sees off competition to be voted best female footballer in the world
In a momentous year for the women’s game, we have a new winner of our best female footballer in the world award. Sam Kerr takes over from Pernille Harder at the top of our list after 12 months during which the popularity of the women’s game soared around the world. The World Cup in France was watched by a total TV audience of 1.12bn people and the fact that Kerr came out on top against all the USA World Cup winners is testament to her enduring brilliance.
Kerr finished second last year, the first time the Guardian and The Offside Rule presented the list together and she is the fourth winner of the award, following Harder, Lieke Martens (2017) and Ada Hegerberg (2016).
Kerr’s main challengers this year were England’s Lucy Bronze, who finished second, and Megan Rapinoe, in third. Kerr won with 3,145 votes, 18 points clear of Bronze, who finished four points ahead of the women’s Ballon d’Or winner Rapinoe. Kerr told the Guardian: “It’s quite amazing to be recognised in this way, amongst so many great female footballers and it’s a great honour. I’m really thrilled.”
The 26-year-old Australian received more votes from our 93 judges than any other player, with only two of them leaving the striker off their list. Every judge was asked to pick their top 40 in the world based on performances in 2019, with the No 1 receiving 40 points, the second-placed player 39 points and so on down to No 40, who got one point.
Kerr had a tremendous year and was again out on her own in the NWSL goalscoring charts with 18, six clear of second-placed Lynn Williams of North Carolina Courage. Kerr’s goals helped her club, Chicago Red Stars, to the NWSL final and she also found the net five times in France during the World Cup.
It is clear the World Cup had a huge influence on the whole 100. With players such as Rapinoe, Rose Lavelle, Alex Morgan and Sari van Veenendaal enduring quiet years with their clubs, the World Cup helped push them to a higher level, whereas players such as Harder suffered for their lack of major tournament football.
I would have liked to have seen some names higher up the list and others who featured high up a little further down, but in a sport where worldwide TV coverage is still a serious hindrance, it is no surprise the biggest tournament of all remained vivid in our judges’ minds.
I keep in contact with all the judges during the voting process and it was clear speaking to many of them how varied opinions were as to what dictated the best player of the year. Some, as I did, viewed the year as a whole and considered who had performed consistently from last December onwards, whereas others were adamant the ability to perform on the biggest stage under the biggest pressure meant players such as Rapinoe had shone brightest.
Many will argue and debate the rankings, which shows how far the women’s game has come, but the front three ended up quite clear of the rest.
It was not like that after the early votes but quite quickly Kerr and Bronze pulled away. Rapinoe went up and down, receiving 11 more No 1 votes than Kerr and 18 more than Bronze, but the Reign FC player also often found herself towards the bottom end of people’s 40 picks, whereas Kerr and Bronze were consistently in the top five.
With a gap of almost 250 points to Hegerberg in fourth, the 22 points which separate the top three shows how close they were in people’s minds. Behind Hegerberg everyone was closely matched, with Amandine Henry (fifth) and Vivianne Miedema (sixth) separated by six points before another big jump to Lavelle in seventh. The Washington Spirit midfielder was our highest new entry.
It is unsurprising given the USA’s World Cup success and the consistent strength of the NWSL as one of the world’s top leagues that Americans again dominate the list, with almost a fifth of the 100 from the USA. Whether it be the established internationals or players such as Casey Short, Jaelene Hinkle and Aubrey Bledsoe, it was another impressive year for the country.
I was pleasantly surprised to see on the list some players who do not always get worldwide recognition, and 18 of our first 30 players revealed on Tuesday were newcomers to the list.
To have the British quartet Leah Williamson, Beth Mead, Beth England and Erin Cuthbert feature was great and there was also a worthy admittance for the first time to the Republic of Ireland’s Denise O’Sullivan, who was once again MVP for North Carolina Courage.
Our youngest player, Lena Oberdorf, is 17, 24 years younger than Formiga who again featured, and there were also places for the exciting Jamaican talent Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw as well as for Ingrid Engen, Giulia Gwinn and Kadidiatou Diani, showing how much potential there is coming through in the women’s game all around the world.
There has to be a mention for the unlucky Tamires, who ended up with the same points as 100th-placed Ludmila but missed out because of having fewer votes than her fellow Brazilian.
Cameroon’s Ajara Nchout was a point away from making the list while Italy’s Sara Gama received a lot of votes but not enough points. She finished 103rd, closely followed by the Spanish duo Virginia Torrecilla and Ángela Sosa, with England’s Keira Walsh 10 places outside the top 100.
Tags: women's football