Lyon forward Ada Hegerberg was today honored with the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award after a prolific season with her club, and it will only get better for the young Norwegian moving forward.
The 21-year-old was the runaway winner of the award, now in its fourth year, earning 13 of the 20 votes available from a select group of European journalists.
To win by such a landslide victory was one thing, but when you look at the players she beat to the award, Amandine Henry (four votes) and Dzsenifer Marozsan (three votes), it makes the margin of victory all the more remarkable.
“When someone acknowledges what you have been doing over these past months, it’s a great feeling,” she said.
This award has certainly not come out of the blue for the young Norwegian, but her rise has been nothing short of meteoric.
The young star earned her move to current club Lyon after a string of impressive performances for previous club Turbine Potsdam, and for the Norwegian national team.
She lit up youth tournaments across Europe before really announcing herself at the European Championships in Sweden in 2013. A stunning strike against Spain in the quarterfinal was one of the goals of the tournament, and along with teammate Caroline Hansen, Europe knew that Norway had some exciting talents that were going to be around for a long while.
She would help Potsdam knock Lyon out of the Champions League in the 2013-2014 season, but there was always a feeling that she needed to move on to further develop her game. Therefore, it was little surprise when Lyon would move to sign her before the 2014-2015 season.
Her form since the move has seen her become the most feared strikers in Europe, which was cemented this past season after 52 goals in 34 games for the French treble winners, which included 13 goals in the UEFA Women’s Champions League – making her the top scorer in the competition.
She set the tone for 2016 by being the first woman in 20 years to win the Norwegian Golden Ball, which is awarded to the best player in the country – both male and female.
But it’s the recognition the UEFA award brings her, that is sure to place her among the elite, not just in Europe, but in the world.
Her win of the Best Player in Europe Award also breaks the stranglehold that Germany has had on the trophy since its inception in 2013.
Nadine Angerer won the inaugural award, followed by Nadine Keßler
in 2014, and Célia Šašić last year, which came just a few weeks after she had retired from the game altogether.
Hegerberg’s stock is already high, and with the players around her at Lyon, its only going to get higher.
The relationship she has struck with French forward Eugénie Le Sommer has made them the most lethal strike force in Europe, and with Marozsan joining the club from FFC Frankfurt, she now has one of the most creative midfielders in world football creating opportunities for her.
But it’s not just the players around her who have made her better, presenting goal-scoring opportunism on a plate. Hegerberg is a worker, is always looking to develop and improve, and she wants to be the best. She’s not just a goal-scorer, but also a team player, bringing others into the equation when playing with her back to goal.
And let’s remind ourselves, she’s 21. She plays with the maturity of someone ten years her senior, but yes, 21!
I predicted Hegerberg would be a finalist for this award a year ago and I’m willing to bet you’ll see her standing on the stage at the Ballon d’Or ceremony come January.
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