This week England full back Lucy Bronze returned to the Women Super League, signing a two-year contract with her previous club, Manchester City.
Bronze concluded her three-year stay with Olympiqe Lyon Feminine by lifting the Champions League last month as the French side secured the trophy with a 3-1 win over Frauen Bundesliga Champions VlB Wolfsburg in San Sebastian.
During her remarkably successful time with the French Champions, she won all that was available to her: claiming three Champions League titles, three league titles, two Coup de France Feminine and a Trophee des Championnes.
Indeed, the 28-year old also secured a number of individual allocates, including the UEFA Women’s Player of the Year in 2019.
On Bronze’s return to Manchester, Head Coach Gareth Taylor said:
“She is an unrivalled talent and her endless individual and team awards only scratch the surface of what a superb player she is, not only at Club level, but also internationally with England.”
For the Three Lions Bronze has also produced some memorable moments, one that immediately springs to mind is that stunning goal against Norway in their last 16 game back in 2015.
This, however, begs the question, should she now be considered the best female player that England has ever produced?
Well, when you think of great England Women footballer’s one name that immediately springs to mind is Kelly Smith.
Smith was able to successfully represent the Three Lions for the best part of two decades earning 117 caps. She was one who arguably blazed a trail for future England footballers such as Bronze.
During her club career she scored a remarkable 125 goals in 144 games for Arsenal Ladies over three separate spells with the Gunners.
Smith also played for a number of American football teams such as New Jersey Lady Stallions, Philadelphia Charge and New Jersey Wildcats in her eight years in the USA.
Ultimately, Smith ended her career with 20 trophies in three separate, which included starring in Arsenal’s amazing 2006-07 season where they secured the Quadruple. She played a key part of this success by scoring 30 goals in 34 matches across those four competitions. She was also presented the FA Player of Year award twice.
BBC Match of the Day commentator Jonathan Pearce said:
“She had power, strength, a lovely eye for a pass, finishing of course and was so dynamic in the penalty area.
“She was a leader because of the way she played, that she demanded respect from her opponents and team-mates. She was the first England women’s football superstar.”
In short, what Smith was able to achieve while the English game was not fully professional was terrific but Bronze is certainly on the right path to either match or surpass her.
It is, however, difficult to compare the two players directly as they play different positions. Bronze is the epitome of the modern day full back, while she can also be utilised in midfield and at times the centre of defence, where as Smith applied her trade typically further forward as a striker.
Overall I would still consider to be Smith to be the greatest player to come from these shores having been able to perform at a consistently high level for a number of years, added to that Bronze has still to win a European trophy with an English club.
The 28-year old, however, certainly is on the right path and comes back to the WSL at a time when the League has a chance to establish itself as the world’s finest women’s division.
What do you think? Should Lucy Bronze be considered England’s greatest ever player? Would Kelly Smith still get your vote? Feel free to post in the comments below….