The development of women’s football in the 21st century has been astonishing, with fans around the world able to watch their favourite stars on a weekly basis and on the grandest of stages. In a year which saw the Lionesses crowned European champions, here is a look at the best female footballers in 2022.

3. Sam Kerr (Chelsea and Australia)

Sam Kerr made an instant impact upon joining Chelsea in 2019, winning her first Women’s Super League (WSL) title in 2020/21. The Australian celebrated the same triumph the following campaign, with the Blues crowned champions in 2022 and Kerr being the league’s top scorer with 20 goals, including a brace on the final matchday in a crucial 4-2 victory over Manchester United. Emma Hayes’ side went on to win the league and cup double that season thanks to a 3-2 FA final victory against Manchester City, where again Kerr scored two – including a winner in the 99th minute. 

Chelsea’s men’s team could do with that firepower up front, as they have struggled offensively under Graham Potter in 2022-23. The Blues have just 20 goals to their name in 16 matches and have outside chances of 9/2 to qualify for the Champions League this season when fans bet on football. Kerr’s fine performances, meanwhile, extended beyond just club level, as she also picked up the Golden Boot for Australia in the Asia Cup early in the year with seven goals.

2. Beth Mead (Arsenal and England)

Despite being an established player since her move to Arsenal in 2017, there is no doubt that 2022 was a breakout year for Beth Mead. Not only was she crowned European Champion with England in the summer’s tournament on home soil, but Mead also won the Golden Boot with six goals to her name, while also being crowned Player of the Tournament. She became the WSL’s all-time assists leader for Arsenal in 2021-22, with her eight assists and 11 goals taking the title race down to the final day.

Mead’s displays both at club and international level drew widespread acclaim. She was named the BBC’s Women’s Footballer of the Year and England’s Player of the Year, while also finishing runner-up in the 2022 Ballon d’Or Féminin and UEFA Player of the Year. Her last individual award of the year came in December, winning one of the UK’s most prestigious accolades, BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Unfortunately for Mead, she has been unable to take this form into 2023, having ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament in November.

1. Alexia Putellas (Barcelona and Spain)

Another player suffering from the same injury is the one who actually pipped Mead to the Ballon d’Or rankings. Alexia Putellas became the first woman to win the individual accolade two years running, and the acclaim reflects the outstanding 2022 she experienced, particularly at club level. She scored 18 and assisted a league-best 15 goals as Barcelona cruised to a perfect Liga F campaign, winning all 30 games and scoring a whopping 159 goals in the process.

Barca fell at the final hurdle in the Women’s Champions League (UWCL), though, as Putellas’ goal was not enough in a 3-1 loss in the final against Lyon. Despite that, the 28-year-old was crowned the UWCL Player of the Season after finishing top scorer with 11 goals. Unfortunately for Putellas, she was unable to feature for her native Spain at the Euros in the summer, after suffering an ACL injury in training ahead of the tournament at the beginning of July. Nevertheless, her performances in the first six months of the year make her an undoubted entry as number one on this list.

As both Putellas and Mead are out with long-term injuries, it remains to be seen which players can become the world’s best in 2023. With a lot of the season still to play and women’s football’s most coveted prizes still up for grabs, there has been no better opportunity to step up and be the hero.

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