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WSL at 10 years: Who is the greatest player?

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On 13 April 2011, the inaugural season of the Women’s Super League got under way with Arsenal beating Chelsea and Doncaster overcoming Notts County.

A decade later, and with 12 fully professional teams, the league has crowned four different champions and produced a series of star players.

And to celebrate 10 years of England’s elite women’s competition, we’re asking who is the greatest player across the decade of the WSL?

BBC Sport journalists, reporters and commentators have come up with a shortlist of the 14 women they think should be in the conversation for the greatest WSL player.

A combination of longevity, impact and trophies, particularly in the WSL, have all been taken into consideration, and some truly remarkable players have not found their way on to our list.

Read more about each of our shortlisted names and vote for who you think is the WSL’s greatest at the bottom of the page.

Lucy Bronze

Appearances: 94 Goals: 11 Clubs: Everton, Liverpool, Man City

Officially the best player in the world after winning the Fifa Best Women’s Player of the Year award in 2020, Lucy Bronze has scaled the peak of the women’s game.

Three years with super club Lyon took her out of the WSL, but that has not stopped the right-back claiming three WSL titles, two with Liverpool and one with Manchester City.

Karen Carney

Appearances: 103 Goals: 25 Clubs: Birmingham City, Chelsea

Now one of the top football pundits in the country, Karen Carney’s career was already in full flow when the WSL started, with the England winger at her hometown club Birmingham City for a second spell.

She would go on to be top scorer in 2014 before moving to Chelsea, where she won the WSL title in 2018.

Gilly Flaherty

Appearances: 145 Goals: 13 Clubs: Arsenal, Chelsea, West Ham

The WSL’s first ever goalscorer and still going strong, defender Gilly Flaherty has played in every season of the competition.

Since scoring the only goal for Arsenal in a 1-0 win over Chelsea 10 years ago, Flaherty has amassed 145 appearances and four WSL titles, two each with the Gunners and the Blues, and is now at West Ham.

Steph Houghton

Appearances: 155 Goals: 20 Clubs: Arsenal, Man City

As England and Manchester City captain, Steph Houghton has personified the modern professional in the women’s game.

With three WSL titles to her name, two with Arsenal and one with City, the defender is second in the league’s all-time appearance list with 155.

Ji So-yun

Appearances: 110 Goals: 37 Clubs: Chelsea

Not only one of the greatest WSL players ever, but also one of the most important overseas arrivals to the league.

South Korean Ji So-yun’s 110 appearances in the competition are the most by any non-British player and the technically gifted midfielder has helped Chelsea win three titles since her arrival in 2014.

Fran Kirby

Appearances: 70 Goals: 46 Clubs: Reading, Chelsea

A key player for England and Chelsea, Fran Kirby has racked up three WSL titles with the Blues and in December became their all-time record scorer when she reached 70 goals.

This season is proving particularly fruitful for the forward, who has contributed 14 WSL goals in a potent attack alongside Sam Kerr (the duo nicknamed Kerrby) for the leaders.

Kim Little

Appearances: 88 Goals: 42 Clubs: Arsenal

Despite a couple of years playing overseas, midfielder Kim Little has made a lasting impact in her two spells with Arsenal.

A three-time title winner, including the inaugural season, her 42 goals puts her eighth on the all-time WSL scorers list and she’s notched up more than 100 caps for Scotland.

Vivianne Miedema

Appearances: 63 Goals: 59 Clubs: Arsenal

The ultimate goal machine, Vivianne Miedema’s WSL all-time record of 59 goals have come in just 63 games for Arsenal.

The Netherlands striker, who helped the Gunners to the 2019 title, has become as well known for her low key celebrations as much as the goals that precede them.

Nikita Parris

Appearances: 110 Goals: 49 Clubs: Everton, Man City

It’s easy to forget that Nikita Parris had played in ever season of the WSL before departing for perennial trophy winners Lyon in 2019.

The England forward was the WSL’s record goalscorer – until Miedema and Ellen White came along – at the age of just 24 and she won a WSL title with Manchester City in 2016.

Alex Scott

Appearances: 76 Goals: 6 Clubs: Arsenal

Already an established club and international defender by the time the WSL rolled round, Alex Scott is one of the highest profile players the English women’s game has ever produced.

Helped Arsenal win the WSL title in 2012, her first season in the league after a spell in the USA, and the seven-time FA Cup winner was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2019.

Jill Scott

Appearances: 157 Goals: 22 Clubs: Everton, Man City

Nobody has made more appearances in the WSL than Jill Scott and she is only one of two players to surpass 150 caps for the Lionesses.

The midfielder won a WSL title with Manchester City in 2016 and is now back at Everton, the club for whom she made her first WSL appearance 10 years ago.

Fara Williams

Appearances: 144 Goals: 42 Clubs: Everton, Liverpool, Arsenal, Reading

Here’s the only other woman to play more than 150 times for England. Fara Williams has been a constant of English women’s football for the past 20 years, making her debut for Charlton in 2001.

A back-to-back WSL winner with Liverpool in 2013 and 2014, the midfielder has been the heartbeat of the competition, racking up 144 appearances, and continues to play for Reading at the age of 37, despite a season disrupted by the diagnosis of a kidney condition.

Ellen White

Appearances: 119 Goals: 56 Clubs: Arsenal, Notts County, Birmingham City, Man City

Vivianne Miedema’s closest rival for the all-time scorer record in the WSL, Ellen White, is just three goals behind her Dutch counterpart on 56.

Prolific for all four of her WSL clubs, striker White helped Arsenal to the title in the first two seasons of the competition.

Rachel Yankey

Appearances: 64 Goals: 10 Clubs: Arsenal, Notts County

One of the WSL’s first established superstars, Yankey was already among England’s most high-profile women’s players when she helped Arsenal to the title in 2011 and 2012.

The winger was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2017, a year after retiring.

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