Martens: My life changed after the EURO
Named EURO 2017 Player of the Tournament
On shortlist for The Best FIFA Women’s Player award
Left Rosengard for FC Barcelona in June
As a youngster, she used to watch videos of Ronaldinho’s flashiest moves and tried to copy her idol’s “incredible dribbling”. Now the shoe is on the other foot, with aspiring players pouring over footage of her skills, seeking to emulate the Dutch star.
Lieke Martens, who helped the Netherlands win UEFA Women’s EURO 2017 in August, has been nominated as one of the three finalists for The Best FIFA Women's Player, along with Carli Lloyd and Deyna Castellanos.
Barcelona’s summer signing shared her thoughts on last season in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, and is very much looking forward to the aforementioned event on 23 October in London. “It’s an honour to be nominated alongside these amazing players,” Mertens said. “It won’t be easy to win this prize, but just getting this far is amazing enough for me. And this time I’ll have to make sure I’m prepared, just in case,” she said grinning, alluding to when she found herself lost for words on stage after being handed her award for UEFA Women’s Player of the Year a few weeks ago.
Who have been ‘The Best’ people in your career? “My parents, no doubt about it. Both of them have played an influential role in my career. Without them I wouldn’t have got this far. They used to spend so long on the road, taking me to games, and did their utmost so that I’d have a chance to play football. They have been with me all the way, and they’ve sacrificed a lot. I’m happy to be able to share moments like these with them. It’s really moving for them, and they’re enjoying it a lot”.
“My life totally changed this summer after the EURO,” Mertens admitted. Helping the Dutch women’s team to win their first-ever trophy is by far her greatest achievement yet, and proved to be worth all the sacrifice. “It was the most important month of my life,” she said. “I felt really great being a part of the squad. We had a fantastic tournament and I’m happy to have played an important role in the team. Playing and scoring in the final was just unforgettable,” she added.
The legacy of the EURO “I’m convinced that the women’s game in my country has changed forever. Before the tournament expectations were high, but during it they skyrocketed,” stated Mertens. “We had great backing, not just in the stadiums but from people watching at home on TV, all across the country. It’s amazing to see the viewing figures for the final and all the attention we got in the press. I think we’ve converted many people to women’s football. We can be proud of ourselves,” she said.
Date of birth: 16 December 1992
Place of birth: Nieuw-Bergen, the Netherlands.
Position: left-sided central midfielder
Clubs: SC Heerenveen and VVV Venlo (the Netherlands), Standard Liege (Belgium), Duisburg (Germany), Kopparbergs/Goteborg FC and Rosengard (Sweden) and FC Barcelona (Spain)
In July this year, Martens signed for Barcelona. She juggles her playing commitments for the club with studying Spanish and taking a Masters in Sport Management at the Johan Cruyff Institute. Coming off the back of a sensational year, the midfield star has already set her sights on bigger things, because “as a player, you always want more, you’re never satisfied”.
I’ve always dreamed of winning the Champions League, playing in a World Cup and taking part in an Olympic Games.
Still only 24, Mertens knows that there’s room for improvement in her game, and she doesn’t shy away from self-criticism. I could offer more in the final third, by scoring more goals and providing more assists,” she admitted.
And why does the Netherlands national team coach Sarina Wiegman - who is also a finalist - deserve The Best award? ** **“She’s been working with the squad for a long time. She knows the players well, which is crucial. She fills the team with confidence. She’s great at helping us pace ourselves in tournaments so that we conserve our energy. She’s really calm, and a great leader too. She knows what we’re capable of as a team, and gets the best out of us. She keeps everything on an even keel. There’s no doubt about it, she’s the cornerstone of our success,” she concluded.