Olympique Lyonnais and England defender Lucy Bronze has been crowned BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year 2018.
Thousands of fans from across the world cast their votes as the 26-year-old beat second-placed Netherlands forward Lieke Martens and third-placed Australia striker Sam Kerr.
The other nominees on the five-player shortlist for the BBC World Service award were Denmark’s Pernille Harder and Germany’s Dzsenifer Marozsan.
“It’s really special,” Bronze said.
“I’m still a bit surprised – I didn’t know why everyone was clapping at first. I was very grateful to even be nominated. The people who’ve been nominated alongside me are really great players and had really great years.”
Bronze, who headed Manchester City’s opening goal as they beat Birmingham City 4-1 to win the Women’s FA Cup for the first time in May 2017, was presented with the award by her aunt, Julie Tough, in front of her cheering Lyon team-mates including last year’s winner Ada Hegerberg.
Move to ‘best team in the world’
Right-back Bronze signed for European champions Olympique Lyonnais last August from Manchester City, saying she wanted to improve her technical skills and was seeking a new challenge.
She has since helped them to the French league title and the verge of a third successive treble – with Thursday’s Champions League final against VfL Wolfsburg and the French Cup final against Paris-St-Germain a week later still to play.
“Coming to Lyon meant everything to me,” said Bronze. “It was Ada [Hegerberg] who actually said ‘oh are you going to come and play for Lyon’ and I was like, ‘no a team like Lyon wouldn’t want me’ and she was like, ‘you never know’.”
“They win everything they are the best team in the world.”
Bronze’s brilliant volley sent Lyon into the Champions League final, sealing a 1-0 aggregate win over her former club Manchester City earlier this month.
“It’s a goal that I think I shocked my team-mates and myself with by scoring it, and the opposition,” she said.
“And I really want my hands on the [Champions League] trophy. It’s the reason I came here and I don’t want to go home without it.”
Another reason for her move to France was next year’s World Cup, which is being hosted by the country with the final being played in Lyon.
“I feel like it will be an advantage for the English team that I am in France,” she said. “I can speak un peu [a little] French so that’ll be nice and to know the city and to know the French way of life how things work.”
England are top of their qualifying group, with 13 points from five matches and are two points ahead of second-placed Wales. Their next qualifier is on 8 June in Russia.
Doing it for defenders
Bronze is the fourth winner of this BBC World Service award, following Nigeria forward Asisat Oshoala in 2015, Scotland midfielder Kim Little in 2016 and Norway forward Hegerberg in 2017.
Netherlands forward Martens was second in this year’s vote after helping her country win Euro 2017 on home soil, while Australia forward Kerr was third after becoming the all-time leading scorer in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in the United States last year with 43 goals.
“Being a defender it’s harder to get recognised,” Bronze said. “All the other girls that have been nominated, it’s predominantly for scoring goals and being the attacking forces in their teams. And rightfully so, they are great players.
“I don’t think I’m the most technical player in the world, I’m probably not the most tactical, smartest, but I probably am one of the ones who works the hardest to get where I am and to have done what I’ve done.”