VAVEL UK’s Top 100 Female footballers of 2017: 10-1
Credit: VAVEL UK/Sophie Lawson

It’s been a long eighteen days counting down from 100 (100-91, 90-81, 80-71, 70-61, 60-51, 50-41, 40-31, 30-21, 20-11), we’ve seen players from all over the world named as some of our best of the year but it’s here, we can finally reveal our top ten players of 2017.

10. Amel Majri - Olympique Lyonnais/France

Amel Majri is arguably one of the most skilful players in the world and can play anywhere up or down the left side of the pitch, she’s a perfect fit for Lyon’s treble-winners and in a team full of stars she’s one of the very best.

When she glides past opponents with ease you get a sense that she is everywhere when she’s on the pitch. Though naturally a more attacking player, Majri is frequently found starting in the back line, although for a team like Lyon a left back is rarely considered a defender given their domination in most games they play. In her element when she players further up the pitch, where her ability to round defenders and find her teammates makes her an important weapon for both Lyon and France – her absence deeply felt by France over the summer.

9. Sam Mewis – North Carolina Courage/USA

Sam Mewis can make the claim to be one of, if not the best, midfielder in the US right now. 2017 reasserted that as Mewis' performances for both club and country were notable in not just the results they produced but how well her game has developed up until the point. With so much talent around her, especially with the USWNT, Mewis has come into her own this year and now not only sets the tempo for whatever team she's playing on but also contributes through her overall vision and control of the game, as well as with goals and assists.
The North Carolina Courage made it to a consecutive NWSL Championship partly due to just how well Mewis played that entire season. Her six goals and three assists in 24 appearances landed her on the NWSL Best XI and it was an honour well earned when you look at her overall play from a deeper midfield role for her club. On the international stage, Mewis was one of the few US players that could come away from 2017 as a positive. She featured 16 times for her country scoring three goals and earning one assist, but again, it was her overall control in midfield that earned her rave reviews even when the USWNT were flailing. If she continues to develop at the rate we saw in 2017, don't be surprised to see Mewis' name as one of the best midfielders in the game in the near future.

8. Irene Paredes – Paris Saint-Germain/Spain

A native to Spain’s northern Basque Country, Irene Paredes carries the fiery temperament of the region with her in all that she does on the pitch, the defender not someone you’d want to argue with. Despite her scorching exterior the 26-year-old remains cool and calm in the Parisien defence, her heated slide-tackles perfectly timed to diffuse and soothe any attacks on Katarzyna Kiedrzynek’s goal.

A league winner with Athletic Club, Paredes has been sharpening her game in Division 1 Féminine since the start of last season, the defender rounding out her game in one of the most fearful-defences in the Northern hemisphere. Whilst the Basque hasn’t been as successful in racking up silverware as others in our top ten – with both a Champions League and a Coupe de France final loss to Lyon fresh in the memory – Paredes has remained our defender of the year, the 26-year-old setting the bench mark.

7. Camille Abily – Olympique Lyonnais/France

It put it simply, Camille Abily has, once again, had a stellar year.

A spectacular player, who almost as an artist, runs around in midfield, sees and reads the game better than most and can both do it on her own or set up her teammates with silky smooth passes. Additionally, she’s an excellent free-kick taker.

As well as completing the treble with Lyon, this year she has equalled Emma Byrne’s appearance record in the UEFA Women’s Champions League as she surpassed Byrne’s total of 76 matches in the competition. Not always the player you expect to see on the scoresheet for Lyon, Abily has been setting European records across the board, now having netted 42 UWCL goals – the most any player has ever scored for a single club in the competition.

6. Caroline Graham Hansen – VfL Wolfsburg/Norway

It’s highly possible that there was something in the water in Norway when Caroline Graham Hansen was growing up, the Oslo native born a scant 142 days before Ada Hegerberg, the two attackers two of the finest playing in Europe today.

A skilful winger who dances about the pitch with a Brazilian air to her play, there is no defence that Hansen can’t unlock, no defender that she can’t out-fox, whether she has to go around, under, over or straight through, the attacker always progresses. With a short career that’s already been hugely injury-hit, 2017 saw Hansen return to the pitch for Wolfsburg after having been side-lined the previous year. Making up for lost time, Hansen quickly struck up an irresistible partnership with Wolfsburg new-girl Pernille Harder, the two combining time and again to rip defences across Germany to shreds.

A forgettable summer with Norway cut through the end of the 2016-17 and start of the 2017-18 Frauen-Bundesliga seasons, Hansen already firing on all cylinders with the Wolves, her contribution over the summer, the highlight for a miserable Norway side.

5. Tabitha Chawinga – Kvarnsveden

Still just 21-years-old, Tabitha Chawinga is, simply put, a one-woman army. Damallsvenskan’s top goalscorer this year with 26 in 22 apps; there was nothing more predictable than the Malawian scoring for Kvarnsveden. A single-minded striker, Chawinga’s goals were not just simple tap-ins or even routine worldies but the culmination of hard graft, the attacker holding off the defence and riding challenges left, right and centre. Strong and determined, Chawinga has spent the year out-muscling defences across Sweden to bring the ball clear and fire it home time and again, her partnership with Elizabeth Addo one of the brighter things about Kvarnsveden’s open play.

With her star rising and goals not enough to keep KIK in the top tier this season, Chawinga was free to join another team when the season finished, courted across the world the young attacker admitted she couldn’t fight the lure of the money in China. Though seeing Sweden as her home, the sublime striker surely won’t be gone for long.

Credit: Ulf Palm/TT Nyhetsbyrån/scanpix
Credit: Ulf Palm/TT Nyhetsbyrån/scanpix

4. Jackie Groenen – FFC Frankfurt/Netherlands

Fondly referred to as “The Ant” by Emma Hayes during her time at Chelsea, Jackie Groenen has been on a steady upward curve ever since she opted to focus on football full-time (along with her degree). A player who can barely go five minutes, let alone an hour and a half without being scythed to the ground and she charges forward, the hardworking midfielder has fast learnt to protect herself, seemingly unfazed by the plethora of challenges that come her way during a match. When she’s not getting fouled off of the park, and even when she is, Groenen is invariably setting up her teammates, slipping in and around the middle of the pitch to tip the balance.

A player who routinely finds herself in the shadow of teammates be it Lieke Martens for the Netherlands or former Frankfurt striker, Mandy Islacker, Groenen’s influence is always felt during a match. A tireless and eye-catching Euros saw Groenen earn the praise of pundits and fans alike across the world, though it was Martens who seemed to have more of a lasting impact, the Frankfurter reverting back into the shadows. Back in Germany, Groenen started the new season with as much virtuously as ever, an injury that kept her out for a handful of games only highlighting her true value on the pitch, FFC lost without her.

3. Sam Kerr – Perth Glory/Sky Blue/Australia

Much like the others in our top six, Sam Kerr is a force to be reckoned with on the pitch, the determined attacker currently enjoying the best year of her career.

Starting the year out in Perth, Kerr helped fire the Glory to a second-place finish in the regular W-League season before aiding her team reach the championship play-off, two second place finishes only spurring her on. From Australia back to the US, Kerr only went from strength to strength in the NWSL this year, free to attack at will after a spell on the sidelines in 2016.

Each match brought about more and more goals for Kerr, the 24-year-old fast setting new league records, defences across America powerless to stop her. Kerr’s input for a struggling Sky Blue team not enough to see them finish anywhere near the NWSL play-offs though again, the striker only seemed more determined when the W-League started up again.

Losing little in the travel, Kerr is once more figurately, on fire for Perth, the attacker enjoying a sumptuous strike partnership with Rachel Hill.

2. Lieke Martens – Rosengård/Barcelona/Netherlands

Not just recognised as the player of the Euros but the player of the year by UEFA and FIFA respectively, there is little Lieke Martens hasn’t won this year, the exceptional attacker having a near-perfect 2017.

Starting the year at Rosengård in the Swedish Damallsvenskan, Martens thrived in the once-great team after the departure of Marta, the Dutch dynamo having a hand in all that Rosengård did going forward. Playing with a spring in her step, the attacker consistently sparked FCR into life, her form some of the best seen anywhere in Europe in the build-up to the Euros.

Heading into the summer tournament as one of, if not, the most in-form player, Martens continued to shine, digging deeper for her country as she has so frequently done when it matters, the woman who scored the Netherlands first ever World Cup goal truly coming alive during major tournaments. A consistent threat, Martens danced around the pitches at across the Netherlands, firing up the adoring home crowd and unlocking the door to the Oranje’s progression.

A well-travelled footballer, the summer not only saw Martens win hearts all over woso as the Dutch claimed top honours at home but a move to a new uncharted league as she swapped Malmö for Barcelona. A new “LM” to dazzle across Spanish pitches, the midfielder fast making herself a key component in the Catalan attack, her dribbling ability reminiscent of another diminutive Barca goal-getter.

1. Pernille Harder – VfL Wolfsburg/Denmark

The metaphorical bridesmaid to Lieke Martens blushing bride this year, Pernille Harder has consistently been the after-thought of many in woso this term but there could be no doubt in our judges mind that she’s been the absolute best player in the world.

Well-known to Damallsvenskan audiences as a title-winner with Linköping, Harder played a key role for the reigning champions before undertaking a new challenge in Germany this year. Joining a Wolfsburg team that on paper should have been running the league, the Danish dynamo seamlessly slipped into the team and provided them all they were missing, turning nervy 1-0 and 2-1 wins into romping 7-0’s.

An instant fan-favourite, Harder showed no signs of needing to adjust to the pace of the new league or even time to gel with her new teammates, the 25-year-old instantly looking like she’d been playing for Wolfsburg for years. Striking up an irresistible overnight attacking partnership with Caroline Graham Hansen, Harder was the catalyst for the Wolves, her influence on the pitch helping the Lower Saxony side to regain the Frauen-Bundesliga title. Even off-colour in the DFB Pokal final, Harder was the difference for WOB, her quick-fire brace enough to see the trophy stay with the holders, SC Sand defeated in the final once again.

With two German winners medals in her possession, Harder returned to the trusty red and white shirt of the Danish national team for Euro 2017, the young captain always a delight when playing for her country. Navigating a banana-skin group, Denmark excelled over the summer, from knocking-out Germany to holding their nerve and earning a place in the final after two long hours against Austria. Throughout everything, Harder remained the key for Denmark, the one to find and exploit the space, scoring taking a back-seat as she pushed herself further and further for Denmark. Her sublime solo goal in the final not enough for Denmark to deny the Netherlands the pleasure at home, the captain dealt her first big loss of the year.

Since the heady days of the summer the Danish team have found themselves in a dispute with DBU, Harder as captain forced to should a large chunk of the burden, the attacker composed as ever in dealing with the situation. A world-class attacker who’s never content with the status quo as she looks to push herself into a bigger and better footballer, the Jutland native remains a role-model on and off the pitch.