Rapinoe is officially the best in the world.
There’s been an awful lot of clamour for Lionel Messi over the last couple of days after he scooped a record breaking sixth Ballon d’Or award in Paris on Tuesday evening and it’s no surprise given what a remarkable achievement that is.
It’s a feat that would currently be impossible to replicate in the women’s game though given the female award equivalent was only launched last year. Still scooping the award at all is worthy of high praise so step forward Megan Rapinoe.
A lifetime achievement
The Ballon D’Or might be an award that’s given out to the star player of that year but for Rapinoe, like many others, she’s only won the award for the hard yards she’s put in throughout her entire life. Rapinoe started playing soccer when she was just three years old and when she reached High School she completed a five hour round trip to play for Elk Grove Pride who played in the third tier of the US system rather than simply representing her school side as it was believed to aid her development.
During this time, she was named in the All-American team and made her national team debut as part of the U19 World Championship squad. After that came her transition into the University setup where she established herself as a key figure in the side as the team went unbeaten throughout her Freshman year.
Despite possessing enormous talent, two ACL injuries put her long term career in jeopardy but a physical recovery and mental strength saw Rapinoe come back strong and after having a hand in 58 goals – 30 goals and 28 assists –in just 60 games she opted for a move into the professional game.
Rapinoe’s pro career is worthy of a book – let alone an article – of its own but she’s had a glittered career that has seen her lift a league and cup double in France, two NWSL shields in America and a host of honours with her international side including Olympic gold at London 2012 and two World Cups.
Strong statements off the field
Some people have tried to level claims that Rapinoe only won the Ballon D’Or ahead of England’s Lucy Bronze for her political views. Rapinoe had her opinions thrust into the limelight earlier this year when she joined one-time NFL Super Bowl quarterback turned activist Colin Kapernick, in voicing concerns over aspects of Donald Trump’s administration.
Whilst it’s ridiculous to claim these issues clouded the Ballon D’Or process in any way, it is another instance of Rapinoe showing resilience, leadership and a fearlessness that are all key aspects of a top level player and, perhaps it’s those qualities that helped inspire her teammates to success during the last campaign.
The year that clinched the win
It’s fair to say that Rapinoe would have probably won more than the solitary Ballon D’Or if the award had been introduced earlier in her career but, make no mistake, Rapinoe didn’t scoop the award for her career. Nor did she win it for her ‘statement making’.
No, Rapinoe won the Ballon D’Or for a terrific season and it’s worth remembering that she’s 34 years old as well. We do not have a betting calculator, such as in horse racing websites like Twinspires, but we can say that winning the World Cup and being the best player of the tournament makes you a big favourite in the odds to get that golden individual prize.
Her age didn’t stop her starring at the World Cup where she tops scored with six goals in the tournament, including one in the final, ensuring she won the Golden Boot as well as the Golden Ball award, which goes to the best player.
At a domestic level, Rapinoe notched seven goals and six assists in 17 games with an average minutes per goal involvement ratio of just over 100 minutes. Her contribution to the team didn’t see glory but Reign did finish third in the NWSL but fell at the semi-final stage in the play-offs.
Still it was a sensational year for Rapinoe, and she is fully deserving of every plaudit that comes her way.
The WSU Team bringing you news and updates from the world of women’s football.