Ada Hegerberg made her return to top-flight football last season after nearly two years and, right away, won the Champions League and the Division 1 Féminin titles with Lyon, while Alexia Putellas, Sam Kerr and Vivianne Miedema exhibited yet again why they are the cremé of the crop in women’s football at the moment.
In the last decade or so, things have gathered pace at a rapid rate in women’s football as more and more elite clubs are fielding full-time professional female players, while the grassroots outfits try to ensure that as many girls can thrive as possible when coming through the ranks. It is no exaggeration if I say that you’d be hard-pressed to find a competitive women’s league even as recently as 2010.
Now, the UK was one the earliest adopters of women’s football way back in the 1890s, but the game never gathered momentum and teams played football more as a recreational sport than anything else. As the First World War took centre stage in Europe, women’s football gained popularity and raised what would today be equivalent to millions of pounds for charitable causes. Dick, Kerr’s Ladies FC stood out as one of the most prominent clubs at the time. However, the 1920s saw the re-emergence of unsubstantiated theories which contended that football threatened women’s health and morality.
In 1921, the Football Association banned all women’s teams from playing on Association-affiliated grounds, arguing that the game was not fitted for females, citing the high cost of player expenses and alleged financial corruption. For several decades, this decision meant that professional women’s football virtually ceased to exist. It was only after England’s 1966 World Cup triumph that the Women’s Football Association was established in 1969. It would take a further two years—and an order from UEFA—to force the (men’s) Football Association to remove its restrictions on the playing rights of women’s teams.
However, there are very few teams that have revolutionised the concept of women’s football in their countries. Take Arsenal, for instance. Their ladies’ team have been on the go since 1987, created by Vic Akers who managed the team for more than 22 years. They lifted their first trophy in 1992, the Premier League Cup, and the rest is history. They have gone on to win 33 major trophies since then, revolutionising British women’s football for good.
Now, the 2021/22 season ended up becoming one of the most productive seasons for women’s football around the world. The fans were back in numbers, there were some nail-biting league title races as well as the continent’s best teams squaring off against each other in the UEFA Women’s Champions League. So without any further ado, with UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 just around the corner, I present to you my top-10 ranking of best female players in world football right now.
Top 10 female footballers in the world right now – Ranked
#10 Aitana Bonmatí
Club: FC Barcelona Femení
Born in Sant Pere de Ribes in Spain, Aitana Bonmatí is a Catalan through and through. She joined Barça’s La Masia academy as a young girl back in 2012. She made her senior debut during the 2016-17 campaign and finally broke through during the 2018-19 campaign. She was pivotal to Barcelona’s first-ever appearance in a Women’s Champions League final and was later voted for the Catalan Player of the Year award for her performances.
And the 24-year-old went from strength to strength as she played an instrumental role in Barcelona’s treble-winning season during the 2020-21 season, with the icing on the cake coming in the form of her being awarded the MVP award for her scintillating performance in the 2020-21 UWCL Final.
Last season, too, the Spaniard was one of the standout performers in a team full of superstars. In 39 appearances across all competitions, Bonmatí scored 18 goals and provided 6 assists. Those are exceptional numbers considering she plays the box-to-box role for Barça.
With her being just 5’4″ tall, Bonmatí’s style of play can be best described as elegance and subtleness wrapped in a ball of combativeness and ultra competitiveness. She is an extremely talented and technically gifted player, has superb vision and a leader’s character while also being versatile and ultra-competitive. Thus, having played a crucial role in Barça’s dominance last season, where they wrapped up both the Primera División Femenina title and the Copa de la Reina trophies albeit missing out on another treble after losing the UWCL Final to Olympique Lyonnais, Bonmatí duly deserves her place on this list.
#9 Tabea Waßmuth
Club: VfL Wolfsburg Women
The 25-year-old German jumped ships ahead of the 2021-22 season as she left Hoffenheim after spending nearly 12 years with the club, whom she joined as a young kid in 2009. Her switch to Wolfsburg has resulted in the Germany international having enjoyed her most productive season in front of goal thus far.
In 35 matches across all competitions, Waßmuth scored 23 goals and provided a further 9 assists, taking her goals contribution tally to nearly one goal involvement every game. She scored 12 goals and provided 9 assists in 21 Bundesliga games. However, her best display came in the UWCL, where she netted 10 goals and set up another two in 11 games.
Waßmuth’s highly productive season, coupled with Wolfsburg clinching the Frauen-Bundesliga and the DFB-Pokal Frauen trophies, means it has been a successful campaign for Die Wölfinnen. However, the only blot in an otherwise flawless campaign for Wolfsburg was getting knocked out by Barcelona in the UWCL Semi-final, though Wolfsburg and Waßmuth can take heart from the fact that they won the return leg by keeping a clean sheet, while, for a tie that ended 5-3, Waßmuth was involved in all three goals against arguably the best women’s team in Europe at the moment. Thus, she finds herself in ninth place on my list.
#8 Irene Paredes
Club: FC Barcelona Femení
The 30-year-old Barcelona centre-back and captain of the Spanish women’s national team had a wonderful campaign last season. Given her contributions to two of Europe’s elite clubs’ success over the past two seasons, it is hard to argue otherwise. The Spain captain helped Paris Saint-Germain to a long-awaited league title, breaking Lyon’s run of 14 consecutive league titles, before making a return to Spain and Barcelona last summer.
Paredes’ signing only added to an already solid backline. She has formed a fantastic partnership with her compatriot Mapi León. The Catalan team went the entire season unbeaten and without dropping any points as they clinched yet another Primera División title. Moreover, Barcelona conceded just 11 goals in their league campaign and Paredes was influential in that, as she started 24 of the 30 games played.
Barça were also successful in winning the Copa de la Reina and the Supercopa de España Femenina, completing another domestic treble in the process, albeit at the expense of suffering heartbreak in the Final of the UWCL after Ada Hegerberg and Co. proved too good on the night and secured the victory in Turin. Despite this, Paredes’ performances over the past two seasons can’t be undermined and, thus, the eighth spot for her on this is justified.
#7 Marie-Antenoitte Katoto
Club: Paris Saint-Germain Féminine
The PSG academy product had a scintillating season last term as she ended the campaign with 36 goals and 5 assists in just 36 games. Such has been the rise of this 23-year-old forward that at such a young age she has already become the club’s all-time goalscorer, with 108 goals in 113 games.
Katoto scored 18 goals in 21 Division 1 Féminine matches to bag her third top goalscorer award, but that wasn’t enough for PSG to retain the title as Lyon went the entire league campaign unbeaten and dropped just two points, resulting in PSG finishing 11 points behind them in second. However, Katoto’s contributions in the cup competitions did lead to success and ultimately silverware at the end of yet another gruelling season.
Katoto’s 7 goals in 5 matches in the Coupe de France led to PSG lifting the trophy, following an 8-0 thumping of FF Yzeure on the night. Moreover, she scored another 7 goals in 7 Champions League appearances, but her journey went only as far as the Semi-final stage as PSG lost out to eventual champions Lyon. Therefore, following an excellent season, Marie-Antoinette Katoto finds herself seventh on my list.
#6 Wendie Renard
Club: Olympique Lyonnais Féminin
The 6’2″ centre-back, who captains both Olympique Lyonnais and the France women’s national team, had a wonderful season with her club as they became the national and then European champions. The 31-year-old defender played a massive part in both the successes. She is one of the most decorated players in modern women’s club football, having won a record 15 French league titles and 8 European trophies.
Renard is physically strong with an abundance of pace and good technical abilities and is an efficient set-piece taker. Moreover, she’s a goalscoring defender. In 27 matches across all competitions, the Lyon skipper scored 7 goals, including three in the Champions League.
In the field of play, the French centre-back was one of the most consistent performers for Lyon. With her height and sharp turn of pace, she was often the last defender on the line, which is backed by the number of clearances she made and the high percentage of duels she won, be it ground duels or aerial duels. She is also a good reader of the game, which is best shown by the interceptions and tackles she successfully makes. One can say she is a complete package as a defender and has backed that up with excellent performances throughout her career, and thus, it is no surprise that she finds herself in sixth on this list and is the highest-ranking defender on this list.
#5 Lieke Martens
Club: Paris Saint-Germain Féminine
The 29-year-old Dutch footballer enjoyed a stellar campaign last season. She tasted domestic success with her side by winning the league and cup competitions, but a defeat against Lyon in the Final of the Champions League meant a historic double treble got ruled out. But that shouldn’t derail us from the fact that this was, by and large, the most productive campaign of Martens’ career.
In 21 Primera División matches, the Dutch winger found the back of the net 17 times while also turning provider for 12 more, making it a ridiculous 29 goal involvements in just 21 games. Her exploits didn’t end there, as she bagged another 4 goals and 3 assists from the 5 domestic cup competition games she played in, while she also had 4 goal contributions in 6 Champions League appearances.
However, the Barcelona Féminine star has confirmed she will be leaving the Blaugrana after spending five years with the club, joining Paris Saint-Germain Féminine on a free transfer. Martens will be leaving the club after scoring 73 goals in 156 appearances, having won three Primera División titles, four Copas de la Reina and the UEFA Women’s Champions League.
Primarily playing as a winger, Martens is capable of playing on either flank but prefers the left flank due to her right-footedness. She likes to cut inside while dribbling and never shies away from taking on the goalkeeper. The 29-year-old has many times been compared to Dutch footballing legend Johan Cruyff, in terms of their positions, playing styles, skills and leadership, as well as the teams they played for. Thus, after yet another outstanding campaign, she finds herself fifth on my list.
#4 Ada Hegerberg
Club: Olympique Lyonnais Féminin
The 2018 Ballon d’Or Féminin winner features in the fourth spot on my list this year. Although the 26-year-old won the French league title and the Women’s Champions League with Lyon last season (a record eighth time), in terms of individual performances and outputs, she has seen better seasons.
Hegerberg scored 18 goals and provided 8 assists in 28 appearances across all competitions last season. She scored 10 goals and provided 5 assists in 16 league games and managed to score 6 goals and add another 2 assists in 10 Champions League appearances, including a goal and an assist in the UWCL Final. She also leads the all-time UWCL top goalscorers chart with 59 goals, having crossed the 50-goal mark in her 49th UWCL appearance, which is a record across both the men’s and the women’s Champions Leagues
While there are other players below her who had a better season compared to her, it is also important to note that Ada returned to competitive football only last October after sitting on the sidelines for nearly two years (21 months). Thus, given how quickly she has gotten up to speed and played a crucial role in Lyon becoming national and continental champions, she rightfully deserves the fourth spot on this list.
#3 Vivianne Miedema
Club: Arsenal Women FC
Arguably one of the greatest strikers in modern women’s football, Vivianne Miedema is the all-time leading goalscorer in the FA Women’s Super League and has scored more goals at the international level for the Netherlands than any other player (men or women). The 25-year-old grew up as a Feyenoord supporter and modelled her game on the Dutch footballing legend Robin van Persie. Furthermore, football writer and journalist David Winner considers her style of play a mixture of Marco van Basten and Dennis Bergkamp.
Since the beginning of the 2021/22 season, Miedema has started playing in midfield rather than as a forward leading the lines. Although there were instances where she started the games as the lone forward or on either flank, most of the time it was about taking the ball up in between the lines or operating as a hybrid #8 in conjunction with the requirements of the system or the opposition in front of her.
Despite playing much deeper than before, Miedema still managed to rack up 23 goals and 10 assists in 38 matches across all competitions. Her partnership with Bethany Mead (13G+17A) was a real positive for Arsenal, and the club will certainly be rueing their chances after dominating the WSL for much of last season only to lose the title to Chelsea by a single point. They also made it to the Semi-final of the FA Cup but could only go as far as the Quarter-final stage in the Champions League, where they lost to VfL Wolfsburg.
Miedema was strongly rumoured to be on the verge of a high-profile move to Barcelona this summer but has shown her commitment to Arsenal by extending her contract with them by another year. Therefore, with a player who is arguably one of the best in the world, Arsenal need to strengthen the personnel around her in order to keep her at the club.
#2 Sam Kerr
Club: Chelsea FC Women
The 28-year-old Australian centre-forward has been a consistent performer at the elite level for some time now. After making 41 goal contributions in 36 matches during the 2020/21 campaign, the Chelsea forward didn’t stop her exploits in front of goal as she scored another 28 goals and added 8 more assists in 29 appearances across all competitions last season.
Kerr’s decision to move to Europe in 2019 has proven to be the right call. The Australian won her third consecutive WSL title with Chelsea last season while earning her second consecutive Golden Boot award in the process. The club were also successful in reclaiming their FA Cup title with a victory against Manchester City, and Kerr was one of the lead protagonists of her team’s cup run. In 5 cup appearances, she scored 5 goals and added another 2 assists, including a brace in the Final. However, despite their success on domestic shores, winning both the WSL and the FA Cup, Chelsea were shockingly knocked out in the Group Stages of the UWCL after making it to their first Final the season before.
Thus, given her speed, skills, tenacity and ruthless finishing, which helped her bag 28 goals last season, and accounting for the role she played in securing Chelsea’s domestic double, Samantha Kerr takes the second spot on my list.
#1 Alexia Putellas
Club: FC Barcelona Femení
If you thought Alexia Putellas couldn’t have had a better season than the one she had during Barcelona’s treble-winning 2020/21 season, her performances in the 2021/22 season went up another level. Her 37 goal contributions in 41 matches during the 2020/21 season were enough for her to win the UEFA Women’s Player of the Year Award, the Ballon d’Or Féminin and the Best FIFA Women’s Player, making her the first player to win all three awards in a calendar year.
Last season, Putellas scored 18 goals and provided 15 assists in 26 league games, while she also managed to score 11 goals and add 2 assists in 10 Champions League appearances. This is all the more impressive given she doesn’t operate as a forward or winger anymore. In recent years, her role has transformed into one where she occupies a much deeper role playing down as the left midfielder (free #8) in Barcelona’s 4-3-3. Her athleticism and lung capacity almost makes her the perfect roaming playmaker, while when needed, she fills in as a defensive midfielder or in the left-back slot to provide defensive cover as well.
Apart from her superb technical abilities, Putellas is creative, excellent at decision making, and a leader on the pitch who leads by example. Thus, given the role she has been playing in Barcelona’s success over the last couple of seasons, especially last term, where she scored 34 goals and provided 21 assists as a midfielder in 42 games, she is, by and large, the best female footballer on the planet right now.