Top 100 female footballers of 2021

The top 100 female footballers of the year is about to go into its sixth year and each year it’s always an incredible privilege to lead this project, especially since we partnered with The Guardian and the list has become well-known worldwide.

This year, it’s been a more fun project to work on. Last year’s calendar was adversely affected by circumstances none of could have foreseen – leaving a late decision to continue with the top 100 – while my own personal circumstances outside of work meant I couldn’t dedicate the usual amount of time to the list that I would have liked.

Still, the 2020 list was really strong, but I think this year’s surpasses it due to the ever-growing depth of top footballers in the women’s game, with many of our judges saying how tough it was to leave some players out of their own individual lists.

There was also a growing diversity in the players and teams who performed well this year; the dominance of Lyon and Wolfsburg ended in France and Germany respectively, FC Barcelona won their first Champions League title and, on the international stage, Canada took a first Olympic gold medal. All of which are reflected in the list we have produced.

The final 100 is down to our judges and this year we put together a longer ‘shortlist’ than ever before, giving our judges as many options as possible in terms of who they could vote for. There were many players included this year who missed either the first half or the second half of the year, but that had been in good form when on the pitch. Unfortunately though, for the likes of Ada Hegerberg and Griedge Mbock, those who had missed the whole year didn’t get nominated.

With that in mind, we compiled our longest ever shortlist of 700 nominated players, with 356 of them receiving votes from our panel. From that point, we were able to set in stone our final 100.

It has once again been a lengthy process to get here; from putting together the panel and the shortlist, while ensuring that the latter gets out to each judge individually in order to give them plenty of time to vote. This process is even lengthier considering this is one of the busiest times of the year for managers, particularly those in national team jobs with camps at the end of October and November.

Fortunately, unlike last year when the schedule was badly affected by the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, most players played more than enough football to be considered for our longlist of nominees.

As ever, the judges have been free to vote for whoever they please within the longlist of players we produced for them. This is also done anonymously, meaning they can vote without pressure, and as ever the period we asked them to consider was from October 2020 through to October 2021.

It’s a different looking list to last year, with 21 players who missed out in 2020 re-entering the list, while there are 18 brand new entries who have never made the list before. This means only 61 players retain their places in the list from last year, with 39 dropping out.

One of the main reasons we go to the lengths to produce a list of 100 is for those nearer the bottom end of the list, even if the closeness of the points means the bottom half of it can be a bit erratic.

To see so many new exciting names, though, shows these players are now getting worldwide recognition and – while it’s always exciting to see who wins – this is the prime reason I set out to ensure the list had 100 players, rather than 5, 10 or 20 in 2016.

We will be launching our panel of 86 judges who voted this year on Monday next week, with the list as ever being revealed between Tuesday and Friday across both The Offside Rule and Guardian Sport websites and social media channels.

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