After Lucy Bronze signed with Barcelona last Saturday, her phone rang. It was the winner of the Golden Ball, Alexia Putellas, who replaced the bronze in the nomination FIFA Best Player of the Year in 2021.
“Alexia wrote to me that she was very happy to have the opportunity to play with me on the team,” says Bronz. “Things like that give you a lot of confidence when players want to play with you and teams want you. Who doesn’t like being told he’s good? It gives you confidence, and confidence plays a huge role in how you work.”
The return of the bronze to Manchester City after a trophy-rich spell with Lyon turned out to be less of a fairy tale than the right-back might have hoped. In two years at Manchester, some marred by injuries, she won the FA Cup shortly after her return and the Continental League Cup last season. The dream of winning the Champions League with City looks as far away as when she left for Lyon: City were eliminated by Real Madrid last season and lost in the quarter-finals to Barcelona the previous season.
Last month, after City swept Manchester United to third place in the Champions League after a terrible start knocked them out of the title race before it was due to start, Bronze’s agent’s phone rang.
“I had offers from Lyon and Barça, two of the best teams in the world,” she says. “It was nice to be able to choose from that and make a decision. It gives me confidence as a player knowing that these big teams that are so successful want to sign me, want me to play, know that I can make a difference for their team.”
Leaving the women’s Super League again was not so difficult. “Honestly, I didn’t think about it,” Bronz says. “I knew I wanted to play abroad again. To be honest, I think my experience at Lyon was the best time of my career, the best moments of my career. To go out and immerse yourself in a different culture, a different experience, to play with the best players in the world – getting the chance to do it again was not difficult.
“I may not be able to brag about repeating the same experience with Barça, but I would love to because it was the greatest experience of my life. I didn’t have that experience in England.”
It was important to make a deal before the home Euro. “It was pretty much done a week after the end of the season; I just needed to find the time to figure it all out. It was hard to keep my mouth shut because it was so exciting. The only thing I said to Barca and my agent is that I want this done before the tournament – do it, get it out of the way. I want to be able to focus on England; I don’t want questions about what club you’re going to next and all the talk and gossip around that.”
Success with England matters. This is an empty spot on the Bronze career hit list. She’s a winner and now, with former Dutch coach Sarina Wigman at the helm, England have an experienced winning coach. “The experience of winning is unparalleled,” Bronz says. “You go back to club football, to the Champions League final between Lyon and Barça – everyone chose Barça, but it was Lyon with [Amandine] Henry who has the mentality to just pick up the game and go for it. Victory is an invaluable experience, and Sarina and I have it in abundance.
Henry’s Lyon teammate and fellow streak winner Ada Hegerberg makes England’s Group A rivals Norway potential rivals, according to Bronze.
“Ada is just a winner, in this regard, the girl is crazy. I remember games in which she came up to me in advance and said: “You just throw the ball into the box and I will score.” She’s just obsessed with scoring, she’s obsessed with winning the ball. There aren’t many nines that can score goals and then come back and tackle and put their body on the line. She’s so tall, and she’s got speed and strength, physical form. I think what makes her different from me is her crazy mentality; it’s something you can’t influence. You can’t get inside her head – I could try.
England are in contention too and expectations are rising as we get closer to the first leg against Austria at Old Trafford on 6 July. For bronze, an unused replacement at Euro 2013 as England failed to break out of their group, time flew by quickly.
“It’s so different. Me and Jordan [Nobbs] were two kids on the team – we didn’t talk much,” she says. “They sent us Nike shoes. Hardly any of the players were sponsored, so no one had boots, which is funny because I was just outside with all the kids from the mainstream clubs. [who were watching training at St George’s Park] and they asked for boots. I just gave them to them because I can get the boots whenever I want. But then they sent us these shoes from Nike. All we did was enter our size. We didn’t manage to choose anything else, they didn’t have names on them.
“Actually, they were too small for us. Jordan and I didn’t dare ask for another pair, so we wore boots all the time that were too small for us. We would be in trouble if we even thought about it now. This makes me laugh, because now a guy from Nike comes to us, measures your legs and makes sure that they fit like a glove. At the first Euro it was like this: “You get what the girls give you and you crack” and we did it.