Christmas break for women’s football is here, which means it’s time to reflect. It’s been a hectic year. Another hard and rough season for not only footballers themselves but also for those of us who follow the game closely.
On December 27, it’s time for Fotbollsgalan in Sweden. This is where Diamantbollen 2021—the award for best female footballer of the year—is handed out.
Last year, Chelsea captain and defender Magdalena Eriksson took home the award. Well-deserved and also what looked like to be an easy choice for the jury.
After another successful year, one could easily argue to give Eriksson the award again. The Blues’ captain has led her team to a historical quadruple; winning the Community Shield, the WSL league title, the Continental Cup and the FA Cup.
Last season, Chelsea also reached the Champion’s League Final for the first time in the club’s history. No other Swedish player has had this success with their respective club.
Eriksson is nominated in the category of the best defender of the year, along with Amanda Ilestedt (PSG) and Hanna Glas (FC Bayern).
Looking at Eriksson’s competitors for the award it suddenly doesn’t seem so easy anymore. Ilestedt and Glas played together in Bayern for the season 2020/21 and played a huge part in the club winning the Frauen Bundesliga title. Bayern was also the only German team to reach the semi-finals in the Champions League.
Glas, in particular, had an outstanding season, establishing herself as one of the best full-backs in Europe. The explosive defender appeared consistently in Bayern’s starting eleven. She also scored some real screamers both in the domestic competitions and in the Champions League.
Ilestedt did not always feature in the starting lineup, but when she appeared, she really showed her versatility. As a defender playing all positions across the backline, she was valuable both for club and national team.
Is Eriksson a lock?
Back to Eriksson, who has been seen as one of the most important players in Chelsea lately. Not only because she is captain, but also for her stable performances defensively. Her contribution in the reigning WSL champions’ buildup play from the back is vitally important to the Blues.
What might be Eriksson’s biggest “issue” when challenging for the award this year is the injury bug. She missed playing time in spring 2021 as she was battling injuries that kept her off the pitch.
First, she was absent in a crucial game against Manchester City. Referred to as the title-deciding game in the WSL, Chelsea barely managed to get the point they needed after a 2-2 draw that positioned them perfectly for the title. Then, Eriksson also missed the Round of 32 and the first semifinal in the Champions League.
On top of that, Eriksson did not have the opportunity to play her primary position in all games in Tokyo as a centre-back. Instead, she was playing the left full-back position when Sweden started the playoffs. We all know the end of their run for the gold medal, the heart-breaking PK loss in the final.
We’ll leave Eriksson, Glas and Ilestedt for a while and move on to the midfielders. Nominated for “Midfielders of the Year”, we have Filippa Angeldahl (Man City), Kosovare Asllani (Real Madrid) and Caroline Seger (FC Rosengård).
All three players were extremely important for Sweden’s success in the Tokyo Olympics. Seger, both as the national team captain and the fact that she earned her 225th cap for Sweden, is a key player. She earned another Swedish league title with FC Rosengård after cruising through the Damallsvenskan. All the way up to that cursed penalty kick in the Olympic final, she had barely put one foot wrong all season.
Together with Asllani, who came from a brilliant season in Real Madrid and Angeldahl, Sweden had one of the best and most stable central midfields in that Olympic tournament. Angeldahl’s great performance in Japan was awarded when Manchester City showed their interest to buy her out from her contract with BK Häcken.
Then there are the three forwards nominated: Lina Hurtig (Juventus FC), Stina Blackstenius (BK Häcken) and Fridolina Rolfö (FC Barcelona).
Hurtig has established herself as a goalscorer in Juventus, and she also was a part of winning the Italian Serie A Femminile title. But when the Olympics took place, Hurtig often occupied the bench. Blackstenius, the Damallavenskan’s most prominent player and top scorer, was also becoming the Swedish top scorer in Tokyo as well.
Together with Rolfö, Blackstenius definitely was the player that really showed Sweden’s attacking and goal-scoring abilities. Manager Peter Gerhardsson says that Blackstenius is one of the national team’s best attackers, because of her work rate and ability to press high.
Gerhardsson also says that Rolfö is one of the most tactically flexible players in Sweden right now. She has been able to play on the wing and in the No. 10 position when Asllani has been absent. Further proof of her versatility is that after joining FC Barcelona, Rolfö often has operated as a left side full-back.
Rolfö’s last season in Wolfsburg earned her a DFB Pokal Cup title, but she had to see their biggest rival and her former club Bayern, win the league. She often was a threat in the Wolves attack, she hit the woodwork enough times to know. If the ball had hit the back of the net a few times, Chelsea might have had problems going past the quarter-finals in the Champions League.
Then there were the Olympics, Rolfö’s move to Catalonia, and her brilliant run in the World Cup Qualifiers. The forward/left full-back is offering us consistent performances, stunning goals, technical dribbles and is earning regular playing time in Europe’s best team at the moment.
Not all about winning titles
Three goalkeepers are also in the run for the competition Diamantbollen: Hedvig Lindahl (Atletico Madrid), Jennifer Falk (BK Häcken) and Zecira Musovic (Chelsea).
I’m not going to give you a long argumentation for who should win this category. If the award goes to anyone else but Lindahl, it should be considered a crime.
In a world where logic could be used to decide where the finest prize of them all should go to, it should be about which player is given the award in each category at first.
With Sweden’s success lately, all the players nominated have a chance to collect Diamantbollen. Eriksson is the only one winning all titles domestically with her club. She also reached the final in the most fashionable tournament of them all.
But then there is Rolfö who, without any doubt, is probably Sweden’s absolute best player at the moment.
And sometimes, just maybe, it might not be all about winning titles.