The days of women’s sporting events being held in the shadows are long gone. Nowadays, in almost every major sport, women’s matches are drawing attendees in large numbers. As such, it is of little surprise that women’s football, too, is witnessing a rapid rise in the number of fans. Stadiums now house capacity crowds for marquee matches, such as the women’s El Clasico (FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid), the women’s Manchester Derby (Manchester City vs Manchester United), or a major cup final such as the UEFA Women’s Champions League. It’s also these matches that showcase the talent and skill sets of female football players who step out on the pitch and play the sport like there’s no tomorrow. So, given the rise of women’s football, it’s only fair to wonder who the best female football player in 2023 is.
Over the course of football’s history, there have been a number of great female football players. England’s Kelly Smith, a Member of the Order of the British Empire, was one of the fiercest players of her generation. She made a mark playing both for the national women’s team and for Arsenal’s women’s team. The modern-day legend from Brazil, Marta Vieira da Silva, is also arguably one of the best female football players the world has ever seen. Often called “Pele in skirts”, the Brazilian has won the FIFA Female World Player of the Year award for five consecutive years between 2006 and 2010. Marta won both the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2007 and is also the leading goal scorer in the marquee quadrennial event. The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 might be her last, and many will be hoping to see the veteran bid farewell to the game while lifting the greatest prize in women’s football, similar to how Messi achieved the feat at the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup.
With the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 currently underway in Australia and New Zealand, it’s the perfect time to compile a list of the best female football players of 2023. Check them out.
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A look at the best female football players of 2023
Not just the finest goalkeeper of the present era, Mary Earps is arguably one of the finest goalkeepers in the history of women’s football. The England women’s international goalkeeper has won a number of accolades in her career, the most prestigious of which is the Best FIFA Women’s Goalkeeper award in 2022. Her record-breaking 14 clean sheets in the Women’s Super League 2022-23, the top-tier division of England’s women’s football league, helped Manchester United finish in second place, a club record. The Manchester-based outfit also qualified for the UEFA Women’s Champions League in 2023-24 for the first time in the club’s history. Earps won the WSL Golden Glove award for her performance in the 2022-23 season. The 30-year-old goalkeeper was also instrumental in handing England their first UEFA Women’s Euro title in 2022, as well as defeating Brazil in the inaugural Women’s Finalissima in 2023.
Entering the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 as the European champions, fans will be expecting great success from England, and Mary Earps will be a player the team will surely be counting on.
Defender Ashley Lawrence has been a pivotal part of the Canadian women’s football team for years. The 28-year-old was part of the squad which won the bronze medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016. She also got a chance to convert her bronze medal into gold when Canada won the top prize at the Tokyo Olympics 2020, a feat the nation achieved for the first time in history.
The 28-year-old is a veteran in the European women’s club football circuit as well. She represented the French side Paris Saint-Germain for six years till 2023, during which time she won the Division 1 Feminine once (in 2020-21) and also featured in a UEFA Women’s Champions League final (in 2016-17). Unfortunately, Lawrence ended up on the losing side in that final. Now a player for the English WSL side Chelsea, Ashley Lawrence is one of the best female football players of 2023, and Canada will surely be pinning high hopes on her.
Australian defender Ellie Carpenter is, without question, one of the finest and best female football players in 2023. At just 23 years of age, she has already played club football on three continents and has left her mark on every team and league that she has featured in. With the French side Olympique Lyonnais, she has won the Division 1 Feminine once (in 2021-22) and the UEFA Women’s Champions League title twice (in 2019-20 and in 2021-22). Carpenter also holds the record for being Australia’s first footballer― male or female― to be born in the 21st century when she made her debut at the age of 15. She was also the recipient of the Professional Footballers Australia Women’s Footballer of the Year award in 2020-21.
Ellie Carpenter, with age on her side, is an exciting female football player to watch, not just in the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 but even beyond that.
At 31 years of age, Lucy Bronze is one of the most decorated female football players in the history of the sport. The veteran English defender has played with several top-division football clubs in Europe and has won a number of titles. These include the FA WSL trophy on three occasions― twice with Liverpool (in 2013 and in 2014) and once with Manchester City (in 2016) – and the Division 1 Feminine on three occasions as well – with Olympique Lyonnais (in 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20). She also won the Liga F title with FC Barcelona in 2022-23. That’s not all as Bronze has also won the UEFA Women’s Champions League title four times― thrice with Olympique Lyonnais (in 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20) and once with FC Barcelona (in 2022-23). Lucy Bronze was also part of the English women’s team that finished in third place at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 and was a core member of the squads that won the 2022 UEFA Women’s Championship and the 2023 Women’s Finalissima.
In 2019, Bronze became the first English player to win the UEFA Women’s Player of the Year award. The English defender was also named The Best FIFA Women’s Player in 2020. Given her incredible talent, England’s chances of winning the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 will be heavily dependent on Lucy Bronze’s form.
Football enthusiasts who regularly follow women’s football often regard Alexia Putellas as the best contemporary female football player in the world.
The Spanish midfielder is the captain of her club FC Barcelona and has won seven Liga F titles, seven Copas de la Reina trophies and two UEFA Women’s Champions League titles with the Catalans. Putellas also holds the incredible distinction of making the second-most all-time appearances and scoring the second-most goals for the FC Barcelona women’s team. She also holds the record for making the most appearances for the Spanish women’s national side with 101 caps.
Alexia Putellas is the only female football player in history to win the UEFA Women’s Player of the Year Award, the Ballon d’Or Feminin and the Best FIFA Women’s Player award, all in the same year (2021). She replicated her historic feat again in 2022, becoming the only female football player to win any of the three awards in consecutive years. The 29-year-old will be looking to win the FIFA Women’s World Cup and complete her trophy cabinet, as will the whole of Spain.
Debora Cristiane de Oliveira, popularly known as Debinha, is one of the most prolific and versatile active female football players of 2023. As of July 2023, she has made 130 appearances for the Brazilian women’s national team and has found the back of the net an impressive 58 times. The 31-year-old has the potential and the skills to play both as an attacking midfielder and a forward, depending on the needs of her team. With Brazil’s national women’s football team, she has won the Copa America Femenina twice (in 2018 and 2022). She was also part of the IFFHS CONMEBOL Woman Team of the Decade (for 2011-2020).
Debinha will have a pivotal role to play in Brazil’s quest for a maiden Women’s World Cup win in 2023.
Partnering alongside Alexia Putellas in the midfield for both FC Barcelona and the Spanish national women’s football team, Aitana Bonmati is a bankable player for both her club and her country. At the young age of 25, the Spanish midfielder has already won 18 trophies with FC Barcelona, including four consecutive Liga F titles (in 2019-20, 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23) and two UEFA Women’s Champions League trophies (in 2020-21 and in 2022-23). Bonmati was the Most Valuable Player of the UEFA Women’s Champions League final in 2021 as FC Barcelona lifted the crown. Playing for Spain, she has scored 16 goals in 47 matches so far.
The UEFA Women’s Champions League Player of the Season for 2022-23 is in red-hot form going into the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 and will be aiming for great success on the global stage.
One of the all-time greats of women’s football, no list compiling the best female football players of 2023 can ever be complete without Alex Morgan. After all, the American forward has been part of the winning squad for the FIFA Women’s World Cup on two occasions now (in 2015 and 2019). Apart from the Women’s World Cup, she also won the gold medal at the London Olympics in 2012 and the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. The 34-year-old American also took home the UEFA Women’s Champions League with Olympique Lyonnais in 2016-17.
Morgan has played 207 matches for the United States women’s football team and has scored a whopping 121 goals for the national side. In fact, she is the only active female football player, alongside Canadian legend Christine Sinclair, to have scored more than 100 goals in women’s international football.
It won’t be wrong to say that Alex Morgan has been the face of women’s football for several years. In 2015, she, along with Sinclair and Australia’s Steph Catley, became one of the first female football players to feature on the cover of the FIFA football video game developed by EA Sports. As the captain of the defending world champions, Alex Morgan will be hoping to lead her team to glory at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023, becoming the first team to win three consecutive Women’s World Cup titles.
A modern-day legend of women’s football, Ada Hegerberg is one of the greatest European female football players to have played the sport. The 28-year-old Norwegian striker has won six UEFA Women’s Champions League titles and eight Division 1 Feminine trophies representing French club Olympique Lyonnais. Hegerberg also holds the record of being the first-ever female football player to win the Ballon d’Or Feminin award (in 2018). She also won the UEFA Best Women’s Player in Europe award in 2016.
Hegerberg will be looking to replicate her club football success on the global stage at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 and increase her tally of 43 goals in 76 matches for Norway.
An argument can be made that Sam Kerr, not Alexia Putellas, is the best female football player of 2023. While that conversation truly makes for a spirited debate, like Messi vs Ronaldo, there is no questioning the fact that the Australian forward is one of the all-time legends in the history of the sport. This is also evidenced by the fact that EA Sports featured Sam Kerr on the global cover for the Ultimate edition of FIFA 23 last year alongside Kylian Mbappe, the new-age superstar in men’s football. This was the first time that a female football player was featured on the global cover of a FIFA video game.
The Australian also holds the distinction of being the only female football player to win the Golden Boot in three different leagues across three different continents― the W-League (in 2017-18 and 2018-19), the NWSL (in 2017, 2018 and 2019), and the FA WSL (in 2020-21 and 2021-22). Kerr also led the Australian team to a historic maiden semi-final of the women’s football event at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. While the Australian side couldn’t manage to secure a podium finish at the Olympics that year, all eyes will be on Sam Kerr and her Australian side as they take on the world in their own backyard at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.
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(Main and Featured Image Credits: Courtesy Instagram/@FIFA Women’s World Cup)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: Alexia Putellas and Sam Kerr are widely regarded as the best female football players in 2023.
Answer: In 2023, Lucy Bronze is considered to be England's best female football player.
Answer: Sam Kerr of Australia is the highest paid female football player in 2023.