Could we be entering the age of the ‘Galacticas’?
Real Madrid have signed a deal to have a women’s football team from next season, and reports in Spain suggest they could have a budget of £1.8m to spend on new players.
With the World Cup currently taking place in France, which of the star players from this year’s tournament could potentially be signed up by the Primera Division side?
Former England goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis, Chelsea boss Emma Hayes, ex-Scotland winger Pat Nevin and BBC Radio 5 Live commentator Alistair Bruce-Ball discuss the options for their fantasy XI.
There were three candidates for the goalkeeping spot, although none of those made it through to the semi-finals.
Brown-Finnis said: “While Sarah Bouhaddi was not been tested for France, neither have the USA or Germany goalkeeper. Norway’s Ingrid Hjelmseth made the huge save in the penalty shootout that got them through to the quarter-finals, where they were beaten by England.
“Spain’s Sandra Panos was outstanding and one of the main reasons why Spain put up such a test in the last 16 against the United States. They have improved technically and physically on the pitch, but goalkeeping-wise she has made a big difference.”
Nevin threw another name in.
“Chile’s Christiane Endler was absolutely fantastic,” he said. “When you are in a competition, you can be the best player in the world but your team-mates could be hopeless. It does not mean you are a bad player.
“That has happened with a number of fabulous players in the World Cup when they have got knocked out early and don’t get a chance to shine.”
|Goalkeeper picked: Ingrid Hjelmseth (Norway)
|Only Laura Giuliani of Italy (20) has made more saves than Norway goalkeeper Hjelmseth.
The major surprise in defence is the panel not picking England’s star player Lucy Bronze. Hayes said: “There has not been a stand-out right-back. Down the right for England, she and Nikita Parris have shown a lot for the side going forward.”
Instead they opted for Germany’s Giulia Gwinn, who will be a contender for young player of the tournament.
Nevin said: “She has really shocked me at how good she has been. She is so similar to England’s Bronze in the way she plays. She has got a goal too because she gets into those forward positions.”
The centre of defence is a formidable one. Hayes said: “While centre-back partner Elena Linari has been equally exceptional, captain Sara Gama has suffered playing for Italy but is now the real leader in the backline.
“Maren Mjelde has not put a foot wrong and maybe went to sleep in one moment during a game, but she has been extraordinary.”
Canada’s impressive left-back Allysha Chapman made up the remaining spot in the backline, though team-mate Kadeisha Buchanan was unlucky to miss out.
Bruce-Ball said: “In a Virgil van Dijk kind of way, Buchanan cruised through the games she played and read it beautifully. She was never flustered and I really liked her.”
Honourable mentions also went to Japan’s “inspirational” Saki Kumagai and Spain’s “exceptional” Maria Leon.
|Defenders picked: Giulia Gwinn (Germany), Sara Gama (Italy), Maren Mjelde (Norway), Allysha Chapman (Canada)
|Gwinn was a key part of a German defence that kept more clean sheets (four) than any other side at this summer’s tournament.
|Gama has won possession in the defensive third 27 times, the third highest figure among all players, behind Germany’s Sara Doorsoun (33) and Brazil’s Monica (28).
|Mjelde completed more passes (275) than any other Norway player during this tournament. Her passing accuracy off 88% was ten percentage higher than any teammate.
|Chapman won gold with Canada at the Concacaf Women’s U20 Championship in 2008
Once again, a strong England candidate was passed over. Despite her superb performances in England’s run to the semi-final, Jill Scott does not make it in.
Brown-Finnis said: “When England do not have Scott, they are a different team. She is integral to their success with the amount of running she does with the ball and without it.
“A lot of her work goes unnoticed because she pulls players away and creates room for others to get on the ball. She does a unique job.”
But she was pipped in the middle of the park by France’s Amandine Henry. Nevin said: “She is utterly brilliant and has been the best player in the tournament so far.
“She is supposed to be a sitting midfielder but totally controls games. She has been scoring some cracking goals and reads the play better than anyone else.”
Another who impressed Nevin with two goals and two assists was Sweden playmaker Kosovare Asllani. “I love he way she played,” he said.
“She did not take part a lot in some games but when there is space, she is a beautiful player and manages to create great angles. It shows how she understands the way the game goes.”
The USA’s Rose Lavelle completes the three-player midfield. Brown-Finnis said: “She is a young, wiry figure for the USA and has an amazing left foot with fantastic skills.
“She is a growing in her tactical knowledge of the game as to where she needs to position herself and where she is most potent.”
|Midfielders picked: Amandine Henry (France), Kosovare Asllani (Sweden), Rose Lavelle (USA)
|No midfielder was won more tackles (12) than France’s Henry.
|Asllani has created more chances from open play than any other player in this tournament (13).
|Lavelle has scored twice despite being subbed off in all four of her starts.
Four players have scored five goals so far at the World Cup – USA’s Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, England’s Ellen White and Australia’s Samantha Kerr.
None of those make this team, however, with Netherlands duo Vivanne Miedema and Lieke Martens preferred.
Hayes said: “I think because her team has been poor but she is around all the goalmouth action, Miedema has to be in. She is rarely involved but every time the ball goes into that 18-yard box, she has some influence in and around their goal.”
Hayes also had a word for Italy’s “outstanding” Valentina Giacinti, but she missed out too, with France’s Kadidiatou Diani making up the XI.
Any other Britons close to getting in? Nevin said: “Erin Cuthbert had a really good tournament and will be in the XI next time if Scotland qualify.”
|Forwards picked: Lieke Martens (Netherlands), Kadidiatou Diani (France), Vivianne Miedema (Netherlands)
|Only Norway’s Caroline Graham Hansen (22) has completed more dribbles than Martens (17).
|Diani has had 35 touches in the opposition box, the third highest figure of all players behind Australia’s Sam Kerr (46) and Netherlands’ Vivianne Miedema (40).
|Miedema is the Netherlands’ all-time leading scorer with 61 goals.
BBC Sport has launched #ChangeTheGame this summer to showcase female athletes in a way they never have been before. Through more live women’s sport available to watch across the BBC this summer, complemented by our journalism, we are aiming to turn up the volume on women’s sport and alter perceptions. Find out more here.
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