Alexia Putellas is first female player to regain Guardian top 100 crown

It is fair to say that 2022 was the most competitive and difficult year to choose the best 100 female footballers, with 358 players receiving votes from our 119 judges.

Given we ask our judges to vote only for their own individual top 40, that is an incredible spread and shows how extensive the talent and quality in the women’s game is.

It was a year that had major tournaments in every confederation, with England, USA, Brazil, South Africa, China and Papua New Guinea lifting their respective silverware, and their successes were reflected in a longer shortlist than usual.

Some order was restored in Europe as many results from 2021 were reversed: Lyon and Wolfsburg took back their domestic titles and the French team also regained their Champions League title, beating the previous winners Barcelona in May’s final.

In the US, last year’s NWSL champions, Washington Spirit, ended up second-bottom as Portland Thorns took home the Championship. Some things, though, remained the same: Barcelona cruised to another league title while Chelsea retained their Women’s Super League crown on a dramatic final day, as well as the FA Cup.

Many judges said it was more difficult than ever to pick their top 40 and that is reflected in this year’s list with some big names dropping down the order but also 24 players who move up from 2021.

Beth Mead was the big mover in the Guardian top 100. Photograph: Naomi Baker/The FA/Getty Images

One national team coach returned their form with the comment, “Mission Impossible: complete”. But it is good to see how much talent is on show in the women’s game right now.

It was such a shame to see Alexia Putellas, Catarina Macario, Ellie Carpenter, Beth Mead, Vivianne Miedema and too many others sustain ACL injuries. The fact that Putellas finished top despite suffering the injury on the eve of Euro 2022 shows how highly regarded she is. She becomes the first player to defend her top 100 title, and she did it by almost 300 points before Beth Mead who unsurprisingly was the biggest mover, up 73 places into second.

Mead beat Sam Kerr by just over 100 points and it was a popular top-three, with almost 600 points separating Kerr from fourth place and beyond. Barcelona locked out half of the top 10 with Aitana Bonmatí, Caroline Graham Hansen and the summer arrivals Keira Walsh and Lucy Bronze joining the winner Putellas.

Lucy Bronze is in our top 10 after joining Barcelona in the summer
Lucy Bronze is in our top 10 after joining Barcelona in the summer. Photograph: Jose Breton/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

Barcelona also shared top spot with Lyon for most players in the list with 12 each. Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Wolfsburg had nine, and Arsenal eight.

The Euro 2022 finalists had the most on nationality, with Germany just pipping the Lionesses into top spot with 14 players to England’s 13, and the USA on 11 as they once again won the Concacaf Championships.

France and Spain had 10 players represented, while it was great to see new nations represented via the youngsters Linda Caicedo of Colombia and Melchie Dumornay of Haiti.

There was a record 26 new entrants and several were high flyers. Sophia Smith, the NWSL MVP for 2022, was the highest new face at No 21 after receiving three No 1 votes, while the Lionesses trio Georgia Stanway (26), Alessia Russo (39) and Mary Earps (48) went straight into the top 50.

Nine players, including Popp and Walsh, returned to the list, alongside Ada Hegerberg after two years out injured and the NWSL top scorer Alex Morgan, both placing inside the top 20 after solid goalscoring years.

At only 17, Linda Caicedo of Columbia is the youngest player on our list.
At only 17, Linda Caicedo of Columbia is the youngest player on our list. Photograph: Luisa González/Reuters

The four oldest players continue to ply their trade in the NWSL, with the 39-year-old Canadian legend Christine Sinclair the oldest, followed by the USA duo Becky Sauerbrunn and former top-three entrant Megan Rapinoe, with Jess Fishlock also maintaining her place.

Caicedo and Dumornay take up the youngest spots as the only two teenagers, followed by Trinity Rodman, Jule Brand, Oberdorf and Mia Fishel who are all 21 or under. Being 22 seemed to be a good omen in 2022, as Smith was joined by Lauren Hemp, Selma Bacha, Klara Bühl, Naomi Girma, Ellie Carpenter, Melvine Malard, Athenea del Castillo and Daphne van Domselaar, emphasising the abundance of young talent.

2023 should be just as competitive as the world descends on Australia and New Zealand next summer for the World Cup. With big-name players hoping to return from injury and many more in peak form, it should be a fascinating year.

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