VAVEL UK's top 100 female footballers of 2018: 20-1

The week has flown by as we've counted down from 100 (100-81, 80-61, 60-41, 40-21) to our top 20, revealing who our Player of 2018 is.

20. Fridolina Rolfö – Bayern München/Sweden

Following a move from Linköping at the end of the 2016 Damallsvenskan season, things haven’t always been smooth sailing for Rolfö in Bavaria, a recurrence of a metatarsal injury leaving her first half season an unsettled one. It wasn’t until the 2017-18 Frauen-Bundesliga season got underway that fans began to really see what the Swede was all about as she fast became the driving force in the team, racking up assists faster than most could count. A little off base this season, with another niggly injury, the 25-year-old remains one of the best attacking influences in a team bursting at the seams with attacking talents.

19. Cláudia Neto – VfL Wolfsburg/Portugal

A name that routinely pops up at the top end of our end of season lists, Neto, much like Wolfsburg and Linköping teammate, Pernille Harder, fast captured the imagination of fans across Germany. A midfielder with a canny understanding of what’s happening on the pitch, her passes usually put on a plate for her teammates, the Portugal captain instantly slotting into her new surroundings following her winter move from Sweden at the end of last year.

18. Christiane “Tiane” Endler – Paris Saint-Germain/Chile

Neither first choice nor second choice at PSG as she shares goalkeeping duties with Katarzyna Kiedrzynek, the Chile captain has taken over Champions League duties for Les Parisiennes. The 27-year-old having caught the eye this year with her performances with Las Chicas de Rojo when Chile hosted the Copa América Femenina, keeping four clean sheets as the nation qualified for their first ever World Cup.

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17. Patricia “Patri” Guijarro – Barcelona/Spain

It’s almost upsetting to watch Patri play and remember that she’s still only 20-years-old, the Majorcan already one of the most accomplished and rounded players in Spain. A firm fixture in Fran Sánchez’ Barcelona side, the youngster has only benefited from her regular playing time, the central midfielder one who moves from defence to attack with ease, teeing up teammates and firing in a fair few goals along the way. 

16. Elin Rubensson – Kopparbergs-Göteborg/Sweden

Defender, attacker, Rubensson has worn many hats during her playing career but it’s in the middle of the park where the diminutive Swede excels, the heartbeat of the Göteborg that finished second in Damallsvenskan this season. A nibble attacker who covers every blade of grass during a match, the midfielder is the workhorse in the team, using her experience in each third to pop up at provide the required cover at any moment. With a handful of exemplary goals in the locker for the season as well, Rubensson’s star is only on the rise.

15. Jordan Nobbs – Arsenal/England

There is something almost not English in the way Jordan Nobbs reads a football match and roves about the pitch, the midfielder with an unparalleled skill for reading space and movement. Too often played out of position for England, the 26-year-old consistently shines for Arsenal where she’s given the freedom to move around the pitch at will, stringing the play together. A master of pass-and-move, the nippy midfielder was in a league of her own this season, one of the brightest stars in Joe Montemurro’s dominant Arsenal team until an inopportune ACL injury curtailed her season and chances for featuring at next year’s World Cup.

14. Amel Majri – Olympique Lyonnais/France

Left-back, left-winger, Amel Majri has adapted to the tasks of playing in defence when and where required for both Lyon and France but there’s no question, the 25-year-old is in her element in the attacking half of the pitch. Light-footed down the left channels, Majri has an ease about her game as she glides around defenders, setting her teammates up, her flair best seen in the free-flowing Lyon side.

13. Linda Dallmann – SGS Essen/Germany

There are few players who had a bigger impact on the 2017-18 Frauen-Bundesliga season than Linda Dallmann, the 24-year-old really finding her form when the league reconvened at the start of 2018. With 12 goals and 14 assists, no player had a hand in more goals than the Essener who averaged out a contribution every 69 minutes. Culminating an effortless partnership with Lea Schüller and Turid Knaak, the SGS trio, individually or combined, had a hand in all by seven of the 43 goals scored last season. But there was no player who could hold a candle to Dallmann, her tireless work in midfield to win the ball and mount attacks unparalleled, the team feeling the deep impact of an injury that’s kept her out of the side since October.  

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12. Wendie Renard – Olympique Lyonnais/France

The Fox in the box, Wendie Renard is never far from the mind when people are asked to think of the best defenders in the women’s game. A permanent fixture in Lyon, Renard anchors the start-studded Champions League winning side at the back. With a team that loves to dominate possession and rarely relents higher up the pitch, for those attackers who can get past the midfield en route to goal, Renard is usually there to say, “no”. Known for her height, the France captain remains a vital part of the attack as well as the defence, her aerial ability nothing to be taken for granted in either box.

11. Becky “Broon” Sauerbrunn – Utah Royals/USA

Our highest ranked defender, pipping Renard, Sauerbrunn continues to be the template for all great centre-backs, not just a calm and composed presence at the back but a defender with a fantastic reading of the game. It’s rare you’ll see Sauerbrunn flying into a tackle as her constant threat assessment is enough to snuff out most attacks but when she does go to ground, her timing remains on point, a ball winner who rarely gets much of the player. Whilst the Royals haven’t instantly shot up the NWSL table, taking time to find their way in the league, the team has little to worry about at the back of the pitch.

10. Megan “Pinoe” Rapinoe – Seattle Reign/USA

Having torn her ACL in 2016, there were questions hanging around Rapinoe of whether or not she’d be able to return to her best. The short answer being, yes, the longer answer a definitive, “hell yes.” Racing around the pitch like a woman still in her 20’s, Rapinoe shows no signs of slowing down, the attacker as influential as ever for the Reign despite the player and managerial turnover between the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Part of the furniture at Memorial Field, the 33-year-old, has had another stand-out season for the Seattle team, augmenting it with consistent form for the USWNT, one of the most reliable players in Jill Ellis’ squad.

9. Ada Hegerberg – Olympique Lyonnais

For all that has been said about Hegerberg this month, it always comes back to her remarkable goalscoring record, her ruthless and deadly attacks. There few players in the world who have the raw attacking instincts of Hegerberg and even fewer who know how to parry them into actions on the pitch and goals. A player never nervous of getting stuck in and pressing the most cohesive of defences, the striker remains on top of the world game with endless training and practicing, her ever rising goal tally a testament to her incredible work rate and skill on the ball.

8. Sara Däbritz – FC Bayern München/Germany

After an enforced spell on the sidelines, Däbritz returned to the Munich starting XI with a bang. Having come back from her injury with fire running through her veins, the young attacker became a woman possessed, firing Munich to win after win. Not just goals but vital assists, the quick-footed German international became the heartbeat of the Bavarian side, always push and driving the team forward, bringing the different cogs of the team into one perfectly running machine. Her club form perfectly translated over to the national team as they were brought back to life by Horst Hubresch, Däbritz’s contributions invaluable as Germany reached their eighth World Cup.

7. Saki Kumagai – Olympique Lyonnais/Japan

If you were to rank football positions by glamour, defensive midfielder would be a long, long way down on the list, those who patrol the border between the defence and midfield oft overlooked. Just as we are so fond of saying about centre-backs, if a DM is one of the best in the position, they make the job look easy and effortless, and few make the job look as casual as the Japan captain.

In her sixth season with Lyon, Kumagai breathes life into the midfield, her partnerships with Camille Abily and Amandine Henry vital for a harmonious team that attacks at will but consistently looks assured in defence.

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6. Sam Kerr – Perth Glory/Chicago Red Stars/Australia

An unstoppable force in the box, there are few players in the world as potent in front of goal as Sam Kerr, the athletic 25-year-old leading the way for Perth, Chicago and Australia this year. After picking up her second NWSL Golden Boot, Kerr has been busy pushing the Glory to the top of the W-League, hunting her second championship silverware. With as many domestic goals as games this year, Kerr has been inspiring fans at home, with her performances for the Matildas, her memorable equaliser against Japan at the Asian Cup enough to set Australia onto a path to the final and their seventh World Cup appearance. Having picked up a raft of individual accolades this year, including the PFA Women's Footballer of the Year and Young Australian of the Year, Kerr will be fully focused on helping the Matildas progress in France next summer, with or without the backflips.

5. Eugénie Le Sommer – Olympique Lyonnais/France

There are few teams in the world that can boast the attacking prowess of Lyon, and with so many exceptional attackers in the side, Le Sommer is guilty of having gotten lost in the fold. Not the first Lyonnais that springs to mind when many think of the team, the diminutive striker has honed her craft as one of the best goal-getters in the women’s game, her effortless partnership with Ada Hegerberg enough to leave most defences torn to shreds, the little and large of women’s football one of the most formidable pairings. Despite Hegerberg’s goalscoring records this year, it’s her strike-partner who has edged her in the rankings, Le Sommer possessing that je ne se quoi for Lyon.

4. Ewa Pajor - VfL Wolfsburg/Poland

If you’re looking for a striker who racks up the goals faster than appearances, look no further than Polish sensation Ewa Pajor. Given the nod by then manager, Ralf Kellermann when Zsanett Jakabfi picked up an injury at the start of 2017, Pajor has excelled as a starter for the German champions. Having earned her starting spot in one of the best teams in the world, the young attacker was swift to repay the faith shown by her manager. With Stephan Lerch having taken over from Kellerman at the start of last season, Pajor has remained the first-choice centre forward and consistently performs at the highest level.

Linking up superbly with her teammates, notably Harder and Caroline Graham Hansen, Pajor receives regular service in the 18-yard box and is always swift to exploit any space offered to her. With 15 goals in ten league appearances (including three hattricks) this season for Wolfsburg, the young striker only seems to get better and better. Not just scoring tap-ins or headers, the Pole went viral for an audacious and perfectly executed bicycle kick against Leverkusen, the striker with the Midas touch this year.

3. Lindsey Horan – Portland Thorns/USA

No stranger to fans in both the US and France, Horan made waves in 2012 When she opted to forego the collegiate route and sign directly for Paris-Saint Germain from high school, ever since she had been improving every day, from those tough matches in France to her move to the NWSL. Regarded as a fine midfielder and attacker, 2018 saw Horan take the step up, becoming the go-to woman for the Thorns, in her more advanced role up the pitch.

As the Riveters would have you believe, the only certainties in life are death, taxes and Horan headers but the 24-year-old is so much more than a jumping, heading machine. With a delicate touch and ability to evade defenders, Horan has become one of the most potent attackers in the American league this season, the most vital piece of the Thorns puzzle that reached the NWSL Championship final.

2. Amandine Henry – Olympique Lyonnais/France

After a spell in the NWSL with the Portland Thorns (and an even briefer stay over in Paris with PSG), Henry returned to the club she had spent nine years at. Though some of her former teammates had left the club and the manager had changed, Henry fell back into step, looking as if no time had past. A player who brings balance to the team, Lyon’s exceptional work in attack would fall flat if not for the 29-year-old tirelessly working in the middle of the park. Involved in getting attacks underway much like the now retired Abily, Henry looks well set to take the mantle from the highly decorated French international.

1. Pernille Harder – VfL Wolfsburg/Denmark

Of course, who else could it be? She topped our list last year, having narrowly shaded Euro 2017 winner, Lieke Martens but this year she’s streaked ahead of the competition. Following her move to Wolfsburg in 2017, the Danish captain has taken the next step in her development, from terrorising Damallsvenskan defences to Frauen-Bundesliga ones, picking up more silverware and personal accolades.

An integral part of the Wolfsburg attack, Harder’s attacking partnerships with Pajor and Graham Hansen leave almost every team the Wolves face bruised and broken in defence, unable to cope with Harder’s exceptional movement and constant pressing. More than just a player who can score and assist, Harder’s work-rate is hard to surpass, her selflessness and ability to pull the strings always on display when she leads her national team.

A once in a generation player, there are few in the game who can reach the same level on the pitch as Harder, as inspirational to watch as Messi, Ronaldo or Mbappe.

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