Alexia Putellas and Beth Mead were separated by just a single point in the final Ballon d’Or Feminin standings. To give you an idea, under the points-based scoring system where voting journalists rank their top five picks for the award, that is effectively less than one whole vote.
Putellas scooped the prize for the second year in a row, having recorded a career-high 28 goals for Barcelona during the 2021/22 season, captaining the club to a ‘perfect’ league season in Spain and completing a domestic double. She was also already UEFA’s Women’s Player of the Year.
It is a fantastic list of achievements and the Spaniard was arguably individually better than she had been in 2020/21 when she also walked away with the Ballon d’Or.
But football is always decided by fine margins. And while Barça did win every domestic game they played, they fell short of retaining their Champions League title. Injury also cruelly cost Putellas the chance to shine at Euro 2022 with Spain, with La Roja among the pre-tournament favourites.
Mead, conversely, won Euro 2022 with England, finishing the tournament with both the golden boot and award for the best player. She also scored 20 international goals over the course of one season. However, Mead didn’t win anything with Arsenal, nor go as far in the Champions League as Putellas.
It comes down to how you perceive the importance of their respective achievements and how vital a role they played in any team success.
Putellas had a great year personally. But it was arguably slightly less successful overall than her 2020/21. Had she won the Champions League again, the debate would likely be a non-starter, while she didn’t even make it to the start line at the summer’s Euros.
Mead gave herself a strong base-line with a resurgent club season in which she jointly led the WSL in assists and reached double figures in a top flight campaign for the first time since 2015. No trophies at club level is a definite mark against her here. But the European Championship was arguably the biggest piece of silverware on offer in 2022 and she took that home in style.
The reality is that Barcelona, because of their enormous quality elsewhere, probably would have won what they did domestically with or without Putellas, such was the margin of victory. But would England have won Euro 2022 without Mead? The answer is almost certainly not.
As top scorer and best player at the tournament, Mead was more important to her team’s achievements in the ultimate competition of the year than Putellas was for her side’s victories and triumphs in lesser settings by relative comparison.
Euro 2022 was only a short burst compared to a full club season. But it is a weighty trump and Putellas didn’t have more Champions League glory to fall back on to match that.
Both players would have been worthy winners of the Ballon d’Or. But, on balance, Mead just about deserved it more.
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