This week the UEFA Women’s Best Player in Europe award will be announced, with the three finalists – Pernille Harder, Dzsenifer Marozsán and Lieke Martens – all with a very realistic chance of walking away with the accolade.
All three have won major honours in 2017, but only one can walk away as Europe’s best. Our writer Katja Kragelund outlines why Vfl Wolfsburg and Denmark striker, Harder, should be crowned UEFA’s best.
Pernille Harder, in my view, is front runner to win because she has been a key player in two title winning teams, as well as captaining a Danish side that took a surprising silver medal at the European Championships.
The 24-year-old is known for her superior technical ability that often leaves opponents sitting in the dust, but her 2016/2017 season has shown her to be a tactically smart player, who never stops working for her team – whether in attack or supporting defensively. Most impressively, she has done it on a consistent basis, and rarely, if ever, has had a game where she disappears.
She was a key player for a Linköping side that won the Damallsvenskan for the first time since 2009, and along the way, she netted 23 times in 22 games, making her the league’s top scorer. She also proved that she had a good eye for her teammates, as she contributed with ten assists – only one player had more. Her performances in the league saw her take home the Damallsvenskan Golden Boot, Forward of the Year and Damallsvenskan MVP at the Swedish football awards, all ahead of a player like Marta.
Her impressive performances also saw several clubs interested in securing her services, but she ultimately chose VfL Wolfsburg. The German giants where second in the league when she joined, but she helped them to another German title, as well as the German Cup.
In the Cup Final, she was the woman behind both of Wolfsburg’s goals, which ultimately secured them the trophy. Perhaps the most impressive thing is just how easy she has made the transition from Linköping (which is a good club, but a level below Wolfsburg), to one of the very best clubs in the world – where she made an impact from the very first minute. She ended her first half season with the club with six goals in 12 league games, two goals in three cup appearances and despite only playing two Champions League games (against Lyon), she was named to UEFA’s Women Champions League all-star squad.
At the age of 24, she captains her national team and she was the key player for Denmark at the European Championship, where she would go onto win a silver medal. She might have waited until the final to get her first goal of the tournament, but she was a constant threat, worked incredibly hard at both ends of the field, with most attacking play coming through her at one point or another.
She proved at the EUROs that she is an individualist that leads from the front and is not afraid to put the hard work in. She was also named to the tournament’s all-star squad. The personal accolades did not stop there, as her fellow players also voted for her to be named 2016 Danish Footballer of the Year.