Following on from the announcement for the top ten coaches of the last twelve months, FIFA have today revealed the shortlist for the top ten players in the world, once again, raising some eyebrows.
As we saw last year with the omission of Kim Little and the huge support for winner, Carli Lloyd, league success pales when it’s a tournament year. The most noticeable absentee is current UEFA best player of the year – and overall force to be reckoned with – Ada Hegerberg, despite another storming 2016 with Norway failing to make the cut for the Olympics, Europe’s best player has failed to make the top ten. The list is a telling one, when only one player appears who didn’t feature in Rio, Lyon’s Saki Kumagai. Although with Olympic success in mind it’s strange to see one of Sweden’s stand-outs – a newly crowned Damallsvenskan champion – Jessica Samuelsson fail to make the cut.
French champions and current Champions League winners, Lyon feature most heavily with five current and former players making the grade which German champions and former Swedish champions both field two players each with the NWSL representing the other few – although Dzsenifer Marozsán is representing both FFC Frankfurt and Lyon.
German Gold Medallists
Starting with those who scooped a historic gold medal in Rio, three of the Olympic squad have made the final ten; Melanie Behringer (Germany/Bayern Munich), Sara Däbritz (Germany/Bayern Munich) and Dzsenifer Marozsán (Germany/Frankfurt/Lyon). As one of the stand outs of the Olympics, as well as the 2015-16 Frauen-Bundesliga season, Melanie Behringer has already been suggested as the clear favourite for the award. Vastly experienced and consistent, Behringer is a lynchpin in both squads, and if you’re a goalkeeper, one of the last people you want to see stood over a free kick. Crafty attacker and Behringer’s Bayern teammate, Sara Däbritz has also been short-listed, and like the midfielder, can boast a solid domestic season and glittering Olympic tournament.
Former Frankfurter, Dzsenifer Marozsán is the third and final German to make the last ten, although the newly named German captain didn’t enjoy league success last year but she’s well on track to help Lyon to more silverware. An intelligent midfielder with an eye for a pass, at just 24 Marozsán is one of the most talented players in Europe but is likely to finish lower down to the list than her compatriots after a less than perfect year.
France and Lyon
Despite once again coming up short in a major tournament, French pair Camille Abily (France/Lyon) and Amandine Henry (France/Lyon/Portland Thorns) have made the cut, joined by (current and former) teammates Saki Kumagai (Japan/Lyon) and Lotta Schelin (Sweden/Lyon/Rosengård).
It’s no surprise to see four of Lyon’s favourite players of 2015-16 feature in the top ten after yet another glittering season. Rumoured to be retiring in the near future, 31 year old Camille Abily is a name who made the vast number of pundit’s shortlists, a spine in the very talented Lyon team – much like Behringer for Munich – works hard for her team and her performances in Division 1 Féminine and the UWCL have earned her a spot on the list.
Having been absent with injuries throughout the year for club and country, currently playing for the Portland Thorns in the NWSL, Amandine Henry was one of the more surprising names on the shortlist. Although a proficient footballer, Henry hasn’t had a particularly outstanding year and (along with a few others) possible made the last ten more on reputation than merit.
As the only player to make the last ten, who didn’t go to Rio, Saki Kumagai’s inclusion may have left people wondering if she was deserving a spot on the list, but like Abily, Kumagai has had a fine year with Lyon. Having put away the winning penalty in the UWCL final, the Japanese international has certainly gone down in club (and Champions League) history, but a consistent performer in a strong side it’s by no great stretch of the imagination that Kumagai is viewed as one of the best in the world.
Another player in the Autumn of her career, Lotta Schelin is a name that will consistently come to mind when thinking about the best players in the world. Another from a hugely impressive Lyon team, Schelin has had a mixed season since making the off-season switch to Rosengård. A stand-out in the Sweden team that went to Rio and came home with an unexpected silver medal, Schelin’s performances in Brazil may not have been the most explosive but the work she put in for her team is hard to forget.
The best of the rest – the Americas
Current player of the year, Carli Lloyd’s (USA/Houston Dash) inclusion is possibly the most surprising, having taken the plaudits for the USA’s success in Canada 17 months ago, Lloyd has been a long way from her best. Forced to sit out most of the NWSL season through injury, Lloyd didn’t return to the Dash until after the Olympics, netting a healthy number of goals for her club team there was nothing mind-blowing about Lloyd this year and unfortunately looks like she’s been included because of ability not merit.
The last two players to make up the top ten both featured in the bronze medal match at the Summer Olympics although one was far happier that the other at full time. With a wealth of experience between them Brazilian start Marta (Brazil/Rosengård) and Canada’s all-time top goalscorer, Christine Sinclair (Canada/Portland Thorns) are both regarded of the crème de la crème of their respective countries. Both had a similar time in Rio, like Schelin, taking on a quieter role for the good of their teams, neither had a huge amount of league success in 2016 but were widely regarded as two of the best at the Olympics – and even made our VAVEL team of the tournament.
A list that was certainly not as controversial as the Coach of the Year, but had a number of surprise inclusions and omissions.