This year was a much more stable year for the women’s game than the Covid-affected 2020, which meant that the whole process of doing the top 100 list was much easier and a lot more fun. There was a fantastic Olympic Games in Tokyo with its own spectacular moments and memories and potential power shifts in several domestic leagues, whether permanent or temporary.
Paris Saint-Germain finally ended Lyon’s dominance in France, Bayern Munich did the same to Wolfsburg in Germany while Barcelona became European champions after years of Lyon dominance with a dominant and devastating 4-0 win over Chelsea back in May.
It was a similar story in the United States with Washington Spirit winning the NWSL Championship for the first time and Canada taking a first gold medal in Tokyo, all of which is reflected in this year’s rankings.
Barcelona dominate with 13 players in the list, Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas taking a hard-to-argue-against victory with 3,136 points, 293 points clear of Vivianne Miedema, who finishes as the runner-up for the second year running, ahead of former winner Sam Kerr.
Forty-six of our 83 judges had Putellas as their No 1 with Miedema the next best with 15 winning votes. The two Champions League finalists dominate the top 10 with six Barcelona players joined by three Chelsea players as well as Miedema from Arsenal.
The changing face of the top 10 this year sees five players make the very top section of the list for a first time: Putellas, Jenni Hermoso, Fran Kirby, Irene Paredes and Aitana Bonmati.
PSG and Lyon are level with 10 players each on the list, though the latter have a couple more players on loan with NWSL side OL Reign. The USA were once again the nation with the most entrants, with 15 players making the list, whether it be returning senior internationals such as Megan Rapinoe, Rose Lavelle, Tobin Heath and Christen Press or the stars of the domestic league in 2021, such as Trinity Rodman.
Last year’s winner Pernille Harder dropped to fifth and as ever it was fantastic to see so many new faces on the list this year, with 17 brand new entrants, including Mariona Caldentey and Lauren Hemp jumping straight into the top 50.
There were new entrants both young and more experienced, with exciting talent such as Rodman, Melvine Malard, Sandy Baltimore and Catarina Macario all in, as were the likes of Katie McCabe, Esther González, the NWSL top scorer Ashley Hatch and Paulina Dudek, the latter of whom came home in 101st in 2020.
After last year’s schedule difficulties and a lack of nominations, many players also return this year after dropping out 12 months ago, with Kirby the highest returning player in seventh place, while Stina Blackstenius, Ellen White and Lavelle are in the top 30 too.
There are some big movers too and deservedly so. Just as the likes of Marie-Antoinette Katoto, Magdalena Eriksson and Alexia Putellas shot up the list in 2020, Bonmati is the biggest mover in 2021, moving up 83 places into the top 10 for the first time.
Patri Guijarro, Ashley Lawrence and Sandra Panos also gained more than 50 places, while Hanna Glas moved up 48 places to become the top full-back ahead of Lucy Bronze, the England international dropping out of the top 10 for the first time.
Rodman and Germany’s Lena Oberdorf are the youngest players this year, both 19 and the only teenagers in the list, while Formiga’s absence means the retiring USA legend Carli Lloyd is the most experienced at 39, coming home in 70th place in her final year in the rankings.
It has once again been an honour and a pleasure to see how the list has come together this year, with a fantastic blend of incredibly talented experienced and young players from all around the world ahead of what should be an exciting 2022 with a European Championships to look forward to in England and another chance for the very best to shine on the biggest stage.