Laden with major honours at club and national-team level, and able to play pretty much anywhere on the pitch: we salute Alex Popp.
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Alex Popp has been starring in UEFA competition for more than a decade and shows no sign of stopping.
A full-back-turned-forward-turned-midfielder-turned-playmaker, Popp has won UEFA women's club honours with Duisburg and Wolfsburg, and an Olympic gold with Germany, who she inspired to the UEFA Women's EURO 2022 final after recovering from the latest of several injury setbacks before helping the She-Wolves to another UEFA Women's Champions League final, where she scored a record-equalling goal in defeat.
What they say
"Alex is not only one of the most influential personalities in football in Germany, but worldwide."
Ralf Kellermann, Wolfsburg sporting manager and former head coach
"Poppi is a leader, both on and off the pitch. Her mentality and the energy she gives off every day inspires and motivates us all."
Sara Däbritz, Germany midfielder
Claims to fame
• Popp got her first taste of senior football at Recklinghausen in the fourth-tier regional Westtalenliga before joining top-flight Duisburg in 2008 aged 17, having reportedly attracted interest from Lyon among others.
• Playing under future national coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg, Popp immediately broke into the first team in a memorable season where Duisburg won the UEFA Women's Cup (the second leg of the final in front of a record crowd of nearly 30,000) and German Cup (beating Turbine Potsdam 7-0 in Berlin with Popp getting the seventh).
• Duisburg retained the German Cup the following year and in both 2009/10 and 2010/11 they reached the semi-finals of the rebranded UEFA Women's Champions League, losing to Potsdam each time.
• In 2012, Popp (now a regular goalscorer having evolved from a full-back in her early Duisburg days) joined ambitious Wolfsburg, who were set to make their European debut.
• Popp had a superb first season as Wolfsburg, who had never previously won a major honour, did the treble of UEFA Women's Champions League (the debutants dethroning Lyon at Stamford Bridge, Popp playing through injury), Frauen-Bundesliga and German Cup.
• Wolfsburg retained their European and German league titles in 2013/14. Popp struck a last-minute winner in the 2-1 last-day defeat of Frankfurt that decided the Bundesliga.
• In the UEFA Women's Champions League final in Lisbon, Tyresö went 2-0 up at half-time but a 47th-minute Popp goal sparked a comeback as Wolfsburg won 4-3; that was her fifth goal of the campaign, a tally that included two to knock out Potsdam in the semis.
• Popp continued to help Wolfsburg dominate the German scene, with further domestic doubles in 2016/17, 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20.
• In that period Wolfsburg also made three more UEFA Women's Champions League finals, losing to Lyon in 2016 (on penalties after Popp had scored a late equaliser), 2018 (in extra time as Popp was sent off) and 2020 (a thrilling 3-1 defeat where Popp, now club captain and often deployed in various midfield roles, had returned to attack to drag her side back into the game with a 58th-minute goal).
• A serious knee injury in April 2021 ruled Popp out for nearly a year but she returned in March 2022 to help Wolfsburg complete another double and reach the UEFA Women's Champions League semis.
• Found goalscoring form in 2022/23 despite another injury, and got a goal and assist in the semi-final second-leg win at Arsenal that took Wolfsburg to another European final.
• Yet another German Cup success followed, Popp scoring in the final 14 years on from first doing so. And while Wolfsburg were pipped to the league title, Popp finished as Bundesliga top scorer for the first time in her career, on 16 goals (she was also top scorer in the cup).
• Wolfsburg lost to Barcelona in the Champions League final but Popp equalled Ada Hegerberg's record of scoring in the final in four separate seasons.
• Named German Women's Footballer of the Year for 2023, her third such honour but first since 2016.
• Popp first got into the Germany Under-15 team in 2006 and the following year played on the very first day of qualifying for the inaugural UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship, scoring twice in an 8-0 win against Israel with team-mates including Almuth Schult, Dzenifer Marozsán, Svenja Huth, Turid Knaak and Tabea Kemme.
• Popp scored in all six of Germany's qualifiers and was on target again as they beat France 3-0 to win that 2008 title. They went on to the first FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in New Zealand, reaching the semi-finals where Popp scored in a 2-1 loss to the United States.
• She also played at the 2009 Women's U19 EURO, and then made her senior debut on 17 February 2010 against North Korea, scoring her first two international goals nine days later versus Finland.
• Later that year Popp starred at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Germany, equalling Christine Sinclair's tournament record as she scored ten goals, getting at least one in every game including the 2-0 final defeat of Nigeria, winning the Golden Ball as best player.
• Popp returned to the senior squad and took part in all four of Germany's games as 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup hosts.
• Earning a starting place for most of UEFA Women's EURO 2013 qualifying, Popp scored four goals in a 17-0 defeat of Kazakhstan and a hat-trick against Romania, totalling eight in the campaign. However, she missed the finals with the ankle injury through which she had played in the UEFA Women's Champions League final win against Lyon.
• Popp went to another World Cup in 2015, helping Germany to the semi-finals, scoring once.
• That earned a 2016 Olympic spot, aiding Germany to their first-ever gold medal, the final at the Maracanã Stadium.
• However, the following summer there was more EURO heartache as once again injury prevented Popp playing in the finals.
• After that tournament, Popp's old Duisburg coach Voss-Tecklenburg took over the national team and appointed Popp captain ahead of the 2019 World Cup in France.
• In that tournament, she won her 100th cap in the round of 16 against Nigeria, opening the scoring as they went through to the last eight, where Germany fell to Sweden.
• In August 2019, Popp scored her 50th international goal in a hat-trick against Montenegro as Germany began a successful UEFA Women's EURO qualifying campaign.
• Popp's injury in April 2021 would have ruled her out of another EURO had it not been postponed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As it was, Popp was handed a squad place by Voss-Tecklenburg and came off the bench in her EURO finals debut to score in a 4-0 defeat of Denmark.
• After that, Popp was in the starting XI and struck against Spain, Finland and Austria before getting both goals in the 2-1 semi-final win against France: a new record of scoring in five consecutive Women's EURO games.
• Heartbreakingly, a warm-up injury ruled Popp out of the Wembley final, which Germany lose in extra time to England. However, Popp was soon back to help Germany book a 2023 World Cup spot and in October 2022 scored both goals in a 2-1 friendly win against France to pass 60 international goals.
• Popp ensured she scored at a third straight World Cup with two goals in the opening win against Morocco.
• She then struck against both Colombia and South Korea to match her EURO 2022 feat of scoring in every group game.
• Germany did not make the knockout phase; despite that Popp ended up with the Bronze Boot as third top scorer with her four goals.
What you might not know
• Popp was the only female student at Gesamtschule Berger Feld in Gelsenkirchen, an elite football school, studying and training with junior Schalke players.
• Popp is a qualified zookeeper, having had to pause her studies at one stage to play at the 2015 World Cup in Canada.
What she says
"I decided to become a professional sportswoman and footballer very late because I actually didn't follow football very much at all. But when I found out that it was possible, I started to dream of playing at the highest level, for the women's national team and in the Women's Bundesliga. I'm delighted that it all worked out for me after lots of sweat, tears and ambition, and by giving priority to football."
"The moments when you celebrate the titles are incredibly beautiful. Lifting a trophy at the end of the season is worth the work. It's motivation enough to have the opportunity to play for titles."
[On her first EURO goal against Denmark] "It was a really special moment because I had the feeling that many people had already written me off. I was able to show with my fighting spirit and mentality that I'm still a force to be reckoned with. I'm not just here to make up the numbers."
"It makes you proud to be able to inspire people with little things, namely football and authenticity. It's incredibly important to have people to look up to. You get a certain orientation, which is very important in a child's development. So I'm happy to be a role model."
"Generally I’m a very vocal, emotional person. When something happens, I tend to be very vocal and very clear in giving my opinion or saying whatever it is that I’m not happy with, and that can be in a number of different situations. But now I can do it just as well the other way too, I can stay quiet at first and then become vocal in saying what I think. Those were things I had to learn but I’m glad I did because it is beneficial in your private life too."