Can 2018 winner top the poll again? A salute to Chelsea's new signing from Wolfsburg.
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Just two days after playing in another UEFA Women's Champions League final for Wolfsburg, and little more than a week since becoming the first player since Marta in 2008/09 to score four goals in a UEFA women's club quarter-final, Pernille Harder has made headlines again with a move to Chelsea and her latest appearance on the UEFA Women's Player of the Year shortlist.
The UEFA Women's Champions League title was the only trophy missing from her time at Wolfsburg, with Harder having suffered European final heartbreak for both club and country. But no one doubts the 2018 UEFA Women's Player of the Year's world-class status as a striker now more prolific than ever.
What they say
"Pernille has been a big influence in rebuilding the Danish national team this year both on and off the field. She still creates and score goals, but her leadership and work rate also deserve credit!"
Lars Søndegaard, Denmark coach
"Harder is someone who has always performed well and always won the titles with Wolfsburg. In terms of playing style and technique, I constantly find her one of the better players."
Vivianne Miedema, Arsenal and Netherlands forward
"Even when she is at less than 100%, you feel her presence. If you’re in a game and need one moment to make the difference, she’s the player for it, no matter what condition she is in."
Stephan Lerch, Wolfsburg coach
"Pernille is always in the right place at the right time because she really watches the game. What makes her so special is her understanding of where the players are around her. A ball will come to her and she’s so intelligent to know where to go because she knows where her opponents are. On the pitch she works so hard, she has a huge desire to win and she’s one of the most intelligent attacking players I’ve seen, she creates so many goals for herself. You can’t coach what she has, it’s given. You can mould it and I think you’d have to challenge her because she’s so incredibly gifted. How can you make this 100% player a 110% player?"
Ella Masar, former Wolfsburg team-mate
"Pernille is one of the best players in the world. Her record at Wolfsburg and Linköping, as well as internationally with Denmark, shows how valuable she has been to her teams."
Emma Hayes, Chelsea manager
Claims to fame
Team Viborg, Skovbakken
• A child of football players, aged ten she joined Midtjylland's academy along with her sister (the only girls there).
• Team Viborg gave Harder her senior break before she moved to Skovbakken aged 17 in 2010, as one of only four contracted players at the club; another was Nadia Nadim.
• Harder averaged more than a goal a game at Skovbakken and in 2012 was snapped up by Sweden's Linköping.
• Linköping were 2009 Swedish champions and 2010/11 UEFA Women's Champions League quarter-finalists but had fallen behind ambitious Tyresö and Rosengård. Harder had a decent goalscoring record there but in 2015 she made a breakthrough, striking 17 goals in 22 league games and aiding Linköping to a second straight Swedish Cup.
• In 2016, Harder and Stina Blackstenius were unstoppable as Linköping clinched the league title. Harder finished as Damallsvenskan top scorer on 23 goals and was snapped up by Wolfsburg.
• Harder joined Wolfsburg as a league champion and has remained so ever since with German doubles in 2016/17, 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20.
• Harder was Bundesliga top scorer in 2017/18 and 2019/20. Her 27 this season was the best since Inka Grings's 28 for Duisburg in 2009/10.
• Harder helped Wolfsburg to the 2017/18 UEFA Women's Champions League final and opened the scoring in extra time, only for Lyon to surge back and win 4-1. Still, she was named UEFA Women's Player of the Year, 12 months after coming second following her UEFA Women's EURO 2017 exploits for Denmark.
• Harder was 2018/19 UEFA Women's Champions League top scorer with eight goals despite Wolfsburg's quarter-final exit. In the 2019/20 she netted four times against Glasgow City to take her tally for the campaign to nine, her 25th European goal.
• However, like in 2018 Harder and Wolfsburg suffered final defeat by Lyon and then announced a transfer to Chelsea on 1 September 2020. In only her second game she scored a superb goal not long after being brought off the bench against Bristol City.
• The 14-year-old Harder announced herself pretty well on her competitive debut for her nation with seven goals against Armenia in a UEFA Women's U17 EURO qualifier in October 2007. Denmark would take bronze the following May in the inaugural finals in Nyon, also going to the first FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in New Zealand.
• Harder's senior debut in October 2009 also went pretty well, a hat-trick against Georgia in a FIFA Women's World Cup qualifier.
• She was Denmark's nine-goal leading scorer in UEFA Women's EURO 2013 qualifying and crucial in their surprise run to the semi-finals in Sweden.
• In March 2016, aged 23, Harder was named Denmark captain and led them all the way to the UEFA Women's EURO 2017 final, scoring in the 4-2 loss to hosts Netherlands. The Danes won 2-1 in the quarter-finals against Germany, who had held the title for 22 years.
• Harder hit five goals in Denmark's 2019 World Cup qualifying campaign, ended by the Netherlands in the play-offs, and already has that many in UEFA Women's EURO 2022 qualifying. She is now past 60 goals and close to 120 caps.
What you might not know
• Harder hails from the small Danish town of Ikast, to footballing parents, but it was her sister Louise’s enrolment in a youth camp that inspired her to get involved. “My sister got called up and basically I wanted that because my sister did it. I’ve always looked up to her.”
• Whether it’s jiving on the touchline, raving in the aisle of the team bus, or flossing in lockdown, everywhere’s a dance floor for Harder. Her moves can often be found posted to Instagram as the energetic forward shows her rhythm off the pitch. She’s also a keen golfer.
• When she was ten, her teacher asked her to write about her life goals: "I felt quite early I was maybe a little bit better than the other girls in my team. I wrote something at school when you were asked what you want to do in life. I think I was maybe ten and I wrote I wanted to be a professional footballer in Germany and play for Denmark.”
• In 2016, Harder was honoured by being placed on the city of Linköping's Wall of Fame of local notables.
What she says
“I started playing when I was five or six years old. I played with boys until I was 11 because there was no girls’ team. It has always been accepted where I come from. Even though I was the only girl in the guys’ team, they wanted to play with me.”
"I don’t feel any pressure. The pressure I feel is for myself; I always have a lot oof expectations, so I think it’s just about being focused on what you have to do on the pitch."
On being an LGBTQ+ role model alongside her partner, Chelsea captain Magdalena Eriksson: “We play as role models individually, but also together, having come out and having to be open about it. I didn’t realise until that picture came out how big an inspiration we actually are for a lot of people.”
On joining Chelsea: "I’m excited to just play for such a big club, to play with so many amazing players and to also be playing in the league. The English league, it’s so exciting at the moment and I’m really looking forward to it."
What she might achieve yet
• “I want to win the Champions League, win titles in different leagues and play in the Olympics. I think that would be quite cool to say that I've won titles in different countries.”
• Denmark are yet to qualify for a World Cup or win a major title but with Harder as their spearhead that is not out of the question.