The greatest trick that Vivianne Miedema ever pulled was convincing the world she didn’t exist. The 24-year-old Arsenal and Netherlands striker didn’t make the Ballon d’Or shortlist in 2018, despite leading her country to the 2017 Euros and finishing as the tournament’s second-highest goal scorer. The following season, she scored 34 goals in 34 games for club and country, including 22 in 20 FA Women’s Super League games. She made the initial list of Ballon d’Or nominees that year—won by Megan Rapinoe—but didn’t feature in the FIFPRO World XI, which consisted of Rapinoe, Marta, and Alex Morgan up front. “I don’t really care about individual awards to be honest, but it’s a joke,” Miedema said in response to her omission. She wasn’t wrong.
While those who know about Miedema have known about her for a while, many are having their drop-the-coffee-cup moment. She scored a hat trick in last Sunday’s 6-1 defeat of Spurs in the North London Derby, which cemented her as the all-time leading FAWSL goal scorer, with 52 goals in 50 games, breaking Nikita Parris’s record of 49 goals—in 61 fewer games.
Miedema is such a consistent attacking force that it’s baffling she’s been so under the radar. She’s a supreme goal scorer, as adept at long-range wonder goals as she is deftly executed tap-ins. She’s also a creator with incredible passing ability, often dropping deeper to pick up the ball and link play. It’s a combination that led David Winner—author of Brilliant Orange and all-around Dutch football don—to describe Miedema (who he says is his favorite player in the world) as a “combination of Dennis Bergkamp and Marco van Basten.” Think about that for a second: Dennis Bergkamp and Marco van Basten!
Although it might be dismissed as hyperbolic, it’s a fair comparison. Miedema doesn’t just wreak havoc on opposing defenses, she’s made it her business to allow others to do the same. Since her 2017 Arsenal debut, only her teammate Beth Mead has registered as many league assists. Perhaps the most comprehensive display of Miedema’s destructive powers was last season’s 11-1 win over Bristol City, where she scored six goals and assisted four—doubling the previous record of goal involvements in a single game—and still looked miffed to be substituted with 20 minutes to go. “I was actually happier assisting the other girls today,” Miedema said postgame. “I love setting up goals. It just feels good.”
Such production makes it hard to understand why Miedema hasn’t been recognized more widely as one of the game’s biggest stars, especially as she’s known by players and staff at Arsenal as “the GOAT.” However, when you get familiar, it starts to make a lot of sense. Miedema is a low-key personality on social media and plays for a club that—despite being one of the most successful in England—doesn’t yet have the international profile of a side like Lyon or the USWNT. Miedema is also aware of this, telling Arseblog, “I think we all know [the Ballon d’Or] is all about popularity and I don’t post much on Instagram or Twitter, so that’s probably what went wrong.”
But as the WSL’s global profile rises, especially with the arrival of several USWNT stars, this might be the year Miedema gains the recognition her talent deserves. There’s a reason American players like Morgan, Rose Lavelle, Sam Mewis, Tobin Heath, and Christen Press have made their way to England, and it’s in part down to players like Miedema. She’s led the talent influx that helped turn the WSL into the place to be, tempting players like Lucy Bronze to leave the European champions Lyon and return home, or Pernille Harder to join Sam Kerr at Chelsea.
There’s a slight sense of irony that as more stars arrive, it’s Miedema—now in her fourth year in the league—who is shining the brightest. Her Arsenal side are currently demolishing anyone in their path, with Miedema developing an even greater hunger for angry goals. And with this year’s FIFA awards and The Guardian’s top-100 player rankings due before the end of the year, it’s hard to imagine that she won’t feature prominently.
After Miedema scored her record-breaking goal last weekend, Arsenal posted a video of every league goal she’s scored. Those previously unfamiliar with her game might wonder how they managed to miss what was right in front of their eyes all along. It’s as if she did her work, exited the building, got into a vehicle, and sped off into the distance before we’ve even realized what had happened.
Everyone watching Miedema’s journey continue and profile grow is witnessing what defenders across Europe have known for some time now—she’s a player who is not easily stopped. Luckily for us, we don’t have to worry about it.