30. Shirley Cruz (Paris Saint-Germain/Costa Rica)
Despite spending seven fruitful years with Lyon before making the switch to D1F rivals in 2012, Shirley Cruz is a fully integrated Parisien and has enjoyed yet another solid year in France, an integral part of PSG’s title-challenging team.
Although PSG have continued to be the perpetual bridesmaids to Lyon’s blushing bride and have been somewhat starved of silverware, Cruz’ influence in deeply felt on the pitch, a driving force in the team as they push Lyon every step of the way. A key performance at the end of this year massive as the Parisiens bested the champions on home soil, a vital step towards their first French title.
Having taken up the role of captain, Cruz leads by example, rounding her team together and urging them to push on, her natural talent for the game and ease with the ball of huge importance to the younger players coming through in Paris.
Having cut her teeth with Stabæk in 2010, Hansen has been a mainstay in some of the top teams across the European leagues, fans in Norway, Sweden and Germany well accustomed to her snappy play, eye for a pass and taste for goal. Although her 2016 has been blighted by injuries – an unfortunate theme with the young Norwegian attacker – Hansen has never failed to impress when fit, a key component in Ralf Kellermann’s side, providing good service for her teammates and working defences across Bundesliga.
Currently out with her second long-term injury of the year, the only thing stopping Hansen from being recognised as one of the very best in the world is her tendency to injury. With the European Championships looming next Summer, Hansen will be a crucial component for Norway if they wish to progress in the competition – her presence clearly missed at the 2015 World Cup.
2016 became the year where 20-year-old Stina Blackstenius announced herself to most of the football world. Many have long seen the potential she possesses, but 2016 was the year she showed it on the biggest stage. She was part of the Swedish squad who won silver at the Olympics, and her goal against USA in the quarterfinal was a massive part of that. She also scored in the final against Germany, although it was not enough.
She also contributed to Linköping’s title winning campaign, where she ended the season as the league’s second most scoring player, with 19 goals in 22 games. She also had four assists. This earned her a nomination as forward of the year at the Swedish football awards – an award she had to see her teammate, Pernille Harder, run away with.
She ended the year by playing at the U20 World Cup, where Sweden, disappointingly, went out at the group stage. Despite only playing three games, Blackstenius finished the tournament as joint top scorer with five goals. In large part due to the four she scored against hots Papua New Guinea.
27. Vivianne Miedema (Bayern Munich/The Netherlands)
One of the most potent attackers in Europe, Vivianne Miedema was a crucial factor in Bayern Munich winning their second successive Frauen-Bundesliga title in May, her goals helping propel the Bavarians through their storming 2015-16 campaign. Equally as important this season, the young Dutch dynamo has netted five of Munich’s twelve league goals this year, scoring the winning goal on three occasions to keep the current champions in contention for a third straight FBL title.
Gunning for UWCL glory, Miedema has been hitting all the right notes with Munich in European competition, putting seven goals away over two two-legged ties this year, her experience against a variety of defences set to pay dividends when she takes to the pitches in Holland next summer.
26. Isabell Herlovsen (LSK/Norway)
As previous LSK entries on this list, Isabell Herlovsen is no stranger to trophies and this year was no exception, as she won the Norwegian double. Personally, it was a year to remember for Herlovsen. She scored 30 league goals in just 21 games, which made her a clear top scorer in the league, and her goal scoring form in the cup as not far of from this as she scored four in four games. Herlovsen is no stranger to goals, as she has 116 goals in her 123 games for LSK and 50 goals for Norway in 111 games.
With Norway, she lost out to Sweden in the Olympic qualifier, but she was part of a Norway side that went unbeaten in the European Qualifying tournament, and is ready to defend, and perhaps better, their silver medal fro Sweden in 2013. She scored five goals in six games for Norway this year.
Unsurprisingly she was nominated for, and won, forward of the year in Toppserien.
25. Lauren Barnes (Seattle Reign/Melbourne City)
As a stalwart in the Seattle Reign defense since its inception in 2013, Barnes has become synonymous with the Pacific North West team. Although the Reign finished outside of a playoff position this season in the National Women’s Soccer League, Barnes was one of the few consistent players in the team from start to finish. The defender has a fantastic left foot, great positioning sense and her eye for a pass fits in nicely with the style of play head coach Laura Harvey wants from her defenders.
In 2016, Lauren Barnes picked up a goal and two assists during her 1,775 minutes of play for her team this season and that earned her a place in the 2016 NWSL Best XI. After three standout seasons, Barnes earned a call up to the national team earlier this year and although she did not feature in any of the games, it showed that the scouting staff in the US has taken notice of her performances and have her in mind if she continues at the high level she has been playing at this year.
24. Lisa De Vanna (Melbourne City/Orlando Pride/Australia)
A mainstay in women’s football for the last decade, Lisa De Vanna is the football to have been there and done that, with the stamp in her passport to prove it. Starting her year out by helping Melbourne City to win the W-League double in their first season, De Vanna really hit her groove in Rio with the Matildas, a tireless worker for her team that always looked to add something in attack. Although unable to tell top from bottom when it comes to water bottles, De Vanna looks sharp as ever on the ball, a late year move to Orlando Pride suggesting she’s gearing up for another memorable year in 2017.
23. Jill Scott (Manchester City/England)
One of the most consistent English players of the last decade (if not longer) Jill Scott – like the rest of her City teammates – had a well decorated 2016, finally getting her hands on the WSL title, a second Conti Cup win the cherry on top as her City side advanced to the UWCL quarter finals at the first time of asking.
In a muted WSL season, Scott was one of the handful who stood out (which for Scott is usually just standing up and being the tallest person by a clear foot), consistent as ever in midfield, every blade of grass on the CFA pitch covered by the rangy Mackem.
Clearly enjoying her football Scott has continued to push herself and her game at City, coming up big for England in Euro qualification, a flurry of goals at the end of the year for her club insuring she wrapped the year up with a flourish. 2017 promises to be another big year for City’s reliable number eight.
22. Lotta Schelin (Olympique Lyonnais/Rosengård/Sweden)
Swedish star, Lotta Schelin is one of the few players to have stayed at a relatively similar placing in our top 50 rankings from 2015 where she placed at 28. A consistent performer over her eight years with Lyon in D1F, Schelin’s final match for Les Lyonnaises was in their UWCL final win in Italy. Her penalty the first Lyon scored in the shoot-out (after Ada Hegerberg had seen her's saved), a golden goodbye for one of Lyon’s favourite daughters who had managed a healthy 14 goals throughout the league season.
For one of the most decorated stars in world football it wasn’t long before Schelin was adding another medal to her collection as she played a vital role in Sweden’s historic silver at the Rio Olympics. With a new page written in the SvFF history books, Schelin headed back to her native Sweden to take on a new challenge with [then] current Damallsvenskan title holders, Rosengård. Only managing six appearances for the Malmö side, her presence was still strongly felt on the pitch as she found the back of the net five times from the eight shots she put on target, memorably scoring a stoppage time winner against Kopparbergs/Göteborg.
21. Leonie Maier (Bayern Munich/Germany)
Another player to have really excelled on the international stage this year, Leonie Maier made herself indispensable for Germany this year. The starting right-back for Die Nationalelf in Rio, Maier plays with great maturity and natural understanding of her role on the pitch, fitting into Silvia Neid’s victorious Olympic squad and looks set to retain her starting spot under new boss Steffi Jones. Crucial for club as well as country, Maier has been on the rostrum more than once in 2016 and was an invaluable member of Thomas Wörle’s Frauen-Bundesliga winning team in 2015-16.