VAVEL Top 50 Female Footballers of 2016: 20-11

VAVEL Top 50 Female Footballers of 2016: 20-11

We continue our countdown at 20, with a certain French feel.

Sophie Lawson

Well past the half-way mark now, we resume our countdown in Germany... (As always if you missed any of the first 30, they can be found here: 50-41, 40-31, 30-21).

20. Yūki Nagasato (Frankfurt/Japan)

In a drastic change from 2015, Yūki Nagasato is the only Nadeshiko player to appear in our count-down, the Japanese national team somewhat going off the rails this year. With a healthy number of comings and goings for the former World Champions, Nagasato was one of the few who really stood out this year.  Managing a handful of goals for Japan as they sagged in Olympic qualification, as well as one of the three Nadeshiko put beyond the USWNT in the first meeting of the two after the World Cup final.

Nagasato's fine form for FFC Frankfurt more than enough to warrant her place in our list, although the Frankfurters have also somewhat fallen from grace in recent years, the Japanese international is one of the stand-out performers for the Hesse-team. A consistent creative outlet in the final third, Nagasato's loyalty to the badge in commendable, the World Cup winner always working until the bitter end for the seven-time FBL champions.

19. Wendie Renard (Olympique Lyonnais/France)

One of the, literal and figurative, giants of the game, Wendie Renard has established herself one of best centre backs in world football. Lucky and talented enough to have been part of one of the most decorated teams in club football for a decade, Renard’s trophy cabinet is bursting at the seams but the 6’1 defender should be remembered for her individual brilliance as well as part of a collective of vastly talented women.

Although the French champions spend most games in possession they are always safe in the knowledge that should they lose the ball they will seldom be punished, Renard’s irreplaceable partnership with Griedge Mbock the number one reason. Two masters of defence, Renard’s influence has clearly been felt on the young defender who signed from Guingamp last year.

Formidable on the ground, Renard reads the game like a master and is rarely out of position although should the backline be breached it’s of no trouble for the French international to time her tackle to perfection. Towering above most others in the league, Renard is renowned for her aerial ability, routinely first to the ball at set-pieces in either box, her ability to both score and prevent goals with her head an asset for both Lyon and France.

18. Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns/Canada)

As the long-time captain of the Canadian national team, Christine Sinclair has been synonymous with women’s football in her country and in her second home in Portland, Oregon. This calendar year, Sinclair started slowly for her club team, the Portland Thorns, but eventually found her rhythm and played at the level that most people have come to expect from the Canadian. After starting her season with injury, Sinclair ended up playing eleven games for the Thorns, scoring six goals and picking up two assists. She was also involved in their playoff run which ultimately fell short in the semi-final.

Sinclair’s true form was on display for her national team, as Canada made their way to a second bronze medal in as many Olympics this year in Rio. The veteran striker was at the heart of all of Canada’s offense as they dismantled high profile teams like Germany, France and Brazil on their journey to a bronze medal. Sinclair has not stated if she is done with the game yet, and if she isn’t, she will be looking to better her total of 18 goals in this calendar year next year.

17. Amel Majri (Olympique Lyonnais/France)

Utility left-sided Amel Majri has a natural flow about her game, originally a winger but converted to left-back at Lyon, Majri has adapted to her more defensive role with ease, still afforded the opportunity to bomb on and add more attacking nous to the D1F champion’s side. Happy to adapt her game and work on her defensive skills at Lyon, Majri has found herself occupying the same starting left-back spot for France, growing in confidence in defence.

Lauded for her abilities on the ball it’s of little surprise Gérard Prêcheur was desperate to find a spot on the pitch for Majri, no matter how stiff the competition for starting spaces at OL is. Well recognised for her fluency in the game Majri became just the eleventh woman to win the prestigious UNFP Female Player of the Year award in 2016.

16. Lene Mykjåland (LSK/Norway)

With her team LSK, Lene Mykjåland has won the double for a third year running, and on a personal level she was named into the team of the year and she ran away with the title of best player in the league as well as the best midfielder award. In the league she notched up seven goals, while she also scored two in LSK's Cup run.

Midway through the season she announced her retirement at the end of the season, despite still going strong. However, her strong display, not least in the UWCL games against French giants PSG, peaked the French side interest so much that they made her an offer, which she couldn’t refuse

Sadly, in her last ever game for LSK, which was the cup final against Røa, she tore her ACL, which ended her French adventure before it began.

With two titles and numerous personal accolades to her name in her final season, Lene Mykjåland caps of an impressive career on a high.

15. Elise Kellond-Knight (Turbine Potsdam/Australia)

Coming into the year off the back of a successful 2015 that included scooping the PFA Player of the Year award in December, Elise Kellond-Knight has continued her fine form on the pitch for both Australia and Turbine Potsdam.

An evergreen for the Matildas as they steamrollered their way through Olympic qualification in Osaka, humbling Japan on the way, although the team had a bump ride in Brazil, Kellond-Knight remained one of the start performers for the Matildas. With a tremendous work ethic and ability to keep running and running in a game to cover both ends of the pitch, floating around to wherever she’s needed most, she caught the eye of a fair few over the Summer.

Her fame reaching its’ peak when a Vine of her helping captain, Lisa De Vanna work out how to use a sports bottle went viral before the Aussies departed the games at the quarter final stage, undone on penalties by the hosts, Brazil. Kellond-Knight memorably, the first to step up to the spot for the Matildas and fire her penalty beyond Bárbara in a less than friendly atmosphere.

A solid performer in Germany for Die Turbinen, Kellond-Knight stayed consistent in a checkered 2015-16 season that saw Potsdam finish unconvincingly in seventh. The new season bringing the best out of Kellond-Knight as Potsdam go from strength to strength, the Australian ever-present one of the unsung heroes of the team, not remembered for her goals like teammates, Svenja Huth and Tabea Kemme but her performances across the park.

Although scoring in back-to-back league games for the first time in Germany in October, opening the scoring against SGS Essen before firing a conciliatory goal past SC Freiburg’s Laura Benkarth in Potsdam’s only loss before the winter break. Both goals, trademark free kicks.

14. Griedge Mbock Bathy (Olympique Lyonnais/France)

By this point readers might be growing tired of all the Lyon players that have made out Top 50 of the year but we’re 100% unapologetic especially when it comes to 21-year-old Griedge Mbock Bathy. With Renard well recognised as one of the best centre-backs in the world, Mbock could have no better partner at the back with both Lyon and France, the young gun looking to surpass the master this year.

Understanding the nuances of intelligent centre-back play, Mbock is one of the last women you want to come up against en route to goal, strong, smart and fiercely determined, there’s little chance you could get past the defender with the ball. Still at a tender age it’s clear that Mbock will be around for a long, long time to come, playing a vital role no matter what colours she’s in.  

13. Cristiane (Paris Saint-Germain/Brazil)

One of the most well-travelled footballers on our list, Cristiane Rozeira de Souza Silva has built up a bounty of knowledge and experience from travelling and playing in Germany, Sweden, USA, Russia, South Korea and France, as well as her native Brazil. A player with a great natural flair for the game, Cristiane oozes skill and charisma on the ball, her feather-light touch allowing her to carry the ball around the most stubborn of defences without breaking so much as a sweat.

Finishing the 2015-16 D1F season as second highest goalscorer with 15 (one ahead of Lyon’s Lotta Schelin) but, like the rest of the league, lightyears behind Ada Hegerberg (33). Cristiane was not just remember for her goals but her healthy number of assists for the Parisiens, helped by a strong on-field relationship with captain, Shirley Cruz.

Her goals vastly important for PSG in the UWCL in 2015-16, her lone strike enough to send the French side through to the semi-finals after three long hours against Barcelona. Her sterling form in the UWCL carried over to the 2016-17 season too, her hat-trick at home to LSK enough to over-turn a worrisome aggregated scoreline.

2016 was a big year for Cristiane not just for PSG but for Brazil too, as she lit up pitches across her home country in the Olympic tournament, two goals in the first two group games a strong showing. Unfortunately for the tournament hosts, the 31-year-old picked up a knock during the games and struggled to overcome her injury as the team began to come undone – her time at full-fitness nevertheless enough to inspire many of the younger fans in the crowd.

12. Marta (Rosengård/Brazil)

What is there to say about Marta that has not already been stated before? Age has robbed her some of that blistering pace but the tactical nous and talent are all still there in Brazil’s joint-favourite current #10. Although her team missed out on the Damallsvenskan and UEFA Women’s Champions League titles this season, Marta still put in noteworthy performances for her Swedish club. Marta finished her 2016 club season with 13 goals and six assists which put her firmly within the discussion of our top 50 players this year.

For Brazil, Marta was at her imperial best as her home nation hosted the Olympic Games for the first time in their history. Marta was also given the honour of being an official flag bearer at the opening ceremony and she took heart from the love shown to her by her nation by helping her country reach the semi-finals of the Olympic football tournament. The team did not end up medaling but again, Marta’s performances were note-worthy as she captained her side to within a penalty shoot-out of a gold or silver medal. Marta ended her international season with six goals altogether.

11. Jessica Samuelsson (Linköping/Sweden)

The fourth Linköping player to make our top 50 is Swedish international Jessica Samuelsson, nominated for Best defender in Sweden (but missing out to Linda Sembrant) and well as making the Best XI in the Damallsvenskan [as voted for by the players], 2016 has been a hugely successful year for the 24-year-old.

Best remembered for her role in the backline at the Rio Olympics, Samuelsson stood out as one of the best defenders in Brazil, with a determination exemplified by her teammates, always willing to put her body on the line for the good of her team. One of many talented Swedish defenders called up by Pia Sundhage for the tournament, Samuelsson earned her spot in the team, starting five of Sweden’s matches – only missing the first group game.

The Olympic silver medal won in Rio, bookended by a stellar Damallsvenskan season where she helped Linköping reach their second ever Swedish title, an important starter in Martin Sjögren’s unbeaten team.