When the 2021 Ballon d’Or Feminin nominees were revealed this week, seven of those up for world football’s greatest individual prize currently ply their trade in the WSL – over a third of the shortlist.
Two of them, Fran Kirby and Ellen White, are English. One day, and it may not be too far in the future, 21-year-old Lauren Hemp will also be in that world class bracket.
Hemp is a star of the future on a world stage, but she is already one of the best and most influential players on a weekly basis at a domestic level for Manchester City.
The winger made her senior debut at Bristol City having barely turned 16 and was poached by Manchester City before she was 18, having already been named PFA Young Player of the Year.
Hemp has won that prestigious award twice more since then – she is the current holder – marking her increasingly important role for both club and country.
Watching Hemp play is, to put it very simply, exciting. Manchester City’s squad is flush with top quality international talent, but it is Hemp that provides the spark. Whenever she gets on the ball it looks as though she could make something happen and, more often than not, she is unplayable.
The youngster makes gliding past players – even the best defenders as Manchester United full-back Ona Batlle found out this weekend – as though they aren’t there look effortless and easy.
Whether it is beating a player and pulling the ball back, crossing early or taking chances herself, Hemp has unusually polished quality for a player still so young. What’s more, she performs with remarkable consistency and is the same most weeks, as though her minimum standard is 8/10.
In a pulsating WSL Manchester derby against rivals United in which a number of players on both sides impressed, it was Hemp who was named player of the match.
She has played 10 times for England since 2019 and, with a home European Championship on the immediate horizon, this is the perfect time to be coming into her own. Hemp is a superstar of the long-term future for both club and country, but she is almost there already.