Caroline Graham-Hansen has looked decidedly at home in both of her appearances at the Camp Nou this season.
Indeed, during the first half against Wolfsburg, in the first leg of the Women’s Champions League semi-finals, the tricky winger showcased her talent in full. After picking up the ball on the right flank, Graham-Hansen weaved through several defenders, feigned to shoot, switched the ball to her left foot and then curled one into the top left corner.
It was a majestic and memorable goal that will be remembered in Barcelona folklore for some time. But it was also somewhat customary by Graham-Hansen’s standards.
Those who watch Barcelona or the Norwegian national team know of the forward’s ability. Yet, somehow, by playing in a domestic team with countless stars and a Norway side that boasts one of the game’s best-ever strikers, Graham-Hansen remains perennially underappreciated.
The 27-year-old was snubbed of a Ballon d’Or nomination last year, despite scoring 13 goals and registering 25 assists in all competitions.
Here’s a look at why the winger deserves more recognition and how she could light up the European Championships this summer.
The world’s best dribbler
There’s something about watching Graham-Hansen dribble that is special to watch. At times it seems as though she glides past players and her technical prowess, in general, is something to marvel at.
Graham-Hansen has also been described as an ‘atypical’ Norwegian –– renowned for her dribbling and technical finesse, rather than her physicality, like many other Norwegians.
At the 2019 Women’s World Cup, the winger completed more dribbles than other player –– an impressive statistic in its own right but all the more noteworthy when you consider Norway were knocked out in the quarter-finals.
Competing with Putellas
Graham-Hansen has been a part of some outstanding domestic teams throughout her career so far. While in Germany, she won eight trophies with Wolfsburg and has nine and counting with Barcelona.
But perhaps a disadvantage of playing in such teams is that she has often gone under the radar.
Barcelona has assembled one of the best club sides ever, featuring some supreme names. Jenni Hermoso, Lieke Martens, Aitana Bonmati and, of course, the brilliant Alexia Putellas, who is the current holder of the Women’s Ballon d’Or.
Putellas plays through the middle, dictates the tempo and seemingly scores almost every game. There is simply no disputing she is one of, if not the best players in the world. Yet, at the same time, Graham-Hansen’s influence on Barcelona is arguably just as crucial.
The forward has a combined 27 goals and assists this year. She rarely, if ever, loses possession. As you watch her with the ball at her feet, it feels at times as though she has more time on the ball than anyone else.
Barcelona fans will tell you the same, and many were livid when she failed to be nominated for the Ballon d’Or last season.
The Norwegian, however, was less bothered by the snub and more concerned with the future of the women’s game.
Speaking to ESPN, she said: “It’s not about the individual prizes — for me it’s about the recognition our game deserves, because if you can’t watch the games, how can people have an opinion on how we are going to move forward?”
National team success
Aside from her success at club level, Graham-Hansen has thrived on the international scene as well.
With 43 goals in 93 international appearances, the winger is even more prolific for country than she is for club.
Norway’s golden generation has started to emerge. Erling Haaland, Aga Hegerberg and Martin Odegaard are all world-class players but you can throw Graham-Hansen into the same bracket.
Still only 27 years old, she could yet feature at many more major tournaments –– the first of which will be Euro 2022 later this year.
Norway feature in the same group as England and will play the Lionesses at the Community Stadium on July 11th.
And English teams, including both Chelsea and Arsenal, will be all too familiar with her brilliance. During last year’s Champions League final, the Barcelona star ran the Blues ragged in Gothenburg as the Spanish side won 4-0.
England will already have their work cut out in stopping Hegerberg, who has recently returned to the international fold.
But unfortunately for Sarina Wiegman’s side, they also face the unenviable task of dealing with the best winger in the world.