After starring in the Netherlands side that won Euro 2017, Lieke Martens has her sights set on this year’s World Cup as she dreams of winning a prize that always eluded her illustrious compatriot, Johan Cruyff.
The discreet 26-year-old might not say so herself, but she is one of the stars of the women’s game.
Quick and powerful, the forward was thrust into the public eye with her performances two years ago, as the Netherlands won the European Championship on home soil.
She wowed observers by pulling off a ‘Cruyff turn’, the skill made so famous by the great man himself in the 1970s, and scored in the 4-2 win over Denmark in the final.
Named player of the tournament, she then joined Barcelona from Rosengard. On the back of that, Martens — who has already won over 100 caps for her country — was named UEFA’s female player of the year for 2017, going on stage to collect her award alongside Cristiano Ronaldo.
She also won the FIFA Best Player prize for that same, memorable year. As she later admitted: “My life changed radically after the Euro.”
There are certain similarities with the late Cruyff in the way she plays, and there is also the Barcelona connection — Cruyff played for Barca before revolutionising the club in his time as coach at the Camp Nou.
“I have a lot of respect for Cruyff,” she said in a recent interview with AFP. “What he has done, he changed a lot. He changed things at Barca and he also changed a lot of things in Holland, it’s amazing what he has done for football,” added Martens, who is also studying a Masters in football business at the Johan Cruyff Institute.