Raheem Sterling is not the only England No.7 you should be paying attention to.
Nikita Parris recently became only the second person to be named the Football Writers’ Association’s Women’s Footballer of the Year and has just enjoyed the best personal season of her career so far.
Across 19 games in a bittersweet 2018/19 WSL campaign, Parris scored 19 goals and assisted another six, although City would miss out on the title to Arsenal despite losing just one match.
England get their 2019 Women’s World Cup underway on Sunday against Scotland, looking to better the third-place finish from 2015. Parris was not included in former coach Mark Sampson’s squad for the tournament four years ago, but much has changed since then. This time she heads to France as arguably England’s most exciting player.
How good is Nikita Parris? Five key things to know…
- Parris finished England’s World Cup qualifying campaign with six goals.
- That total makes her the Lionesses’ top scorer and amounts to 20.7% of the whole team total.
- Parris has scored 30 goals in here last 37 games WSL games for Man City.
- Only Arsenal forward Vivianne Miedema’s absurd tally of 26 goals in 17 apps denied Parris the Golden Boot this season.
- But Parris did become the top goalscorer in Women’s Super League’s nine-year history (49 goals).
Born in Liverpool, Parris was developed by the Everton academy. Her debut came in 2010 aged 16 before being named in the squad for 2011’s Women’s Super League, a competition in which she would go on to become the all-time top-scorer.
But it was very much a slow-burning entrance to first-team football for the forward, as she failed to score at all in 13 appearances across her first two seasons – the WSL season then consisted of 14 games. And by the time she improved her output, Parris found her talent had – like Toni Duggan – outgrown her childhood club.
Parris scored six of Everton’s 10-goal team total for the 2014 season and was named in named in the 2014 WSL Team of the Year. No other Toffees player managed more than one that year and they finished bottom of the table.
Everton’s subsequent relegation meant Parris sought a move to Man City, with whom she would go on to earn five major honours while averaging a goal every other game (46 in 90), culminating in her personal-best season and the aforementioned FWA.award
All of which earned Parris a move to the best European team in women’s football: Olympique Lyonnais Feminine.
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After five years the moment has come to call time on my career as a Manchester City Women’s player… I want to thank the fans for their support over the last 5 years. I’ve given this club everything & won every trophy domestically possible to win. And so, it’s time to move on, to the next phase of my career.
“After five years the moment has come, to call time on my career as a Manchester City Women’s player,” she said on Instagram on May 11.
“I want to thank the fans for their support over the last five years. I’ve given this club everything and won every trophy domestically possible to win.
“And so, it’s time to move on, to the next phase of my career.”
Ten days later, her imminent move to Lyon was confirmed.
Before Parris does move onto the next phase of her career, she has the World Cup to look forward to, and a chance to turn her impressive international record into glory.
After working her way up through the youth teams and missing out on the 2015 World Cup squad, Parris made her senior debut in June 2016, coming off the bench and recording an assist in England’s 7-0 win over Serbia in their qualification campaign for Euro 2017. It was the first of 43 international caps to date and just three days later, Parris came off the bench for England again, this time scoring twice in another 7-0 win over Serbia.
Parris was also on the scoresheet as England won the SheBelieves Cup in March, netting in a 2-2 draw with the United States, a result which all but confirmed glory for Phil Neville’s side.
And now Parris will be hoping to lead England to cup success once more, with England kicking off their 2019 Women’s World Cup campaign against Scotland on June 9.
Once the World Cup is over, and Parris has had her say on the world stage, she will return to club football playing in arguably one of the best teams in women’s football history.
Lyon have been ruthlessly dominant of French women’s football, winning the Division 1 Feminine for 13 years in a row with the most recent being their 17th in total – a record for the league. Ten French Cups have also followed, but even more spectacularly, their dominance has spread onto the continent.
No women’s team has won the Champions League more times than Lyon’s six, four of which have come in the past four years. In fact, since the tournament was rebranded to the Champions League from the Uefa Women’s Cup in 2009/10, Lyon have participated in eight of the 10 finals. Only in 2014 and 2015 have they failed to reach the showcase event. They are the Real Madrid of the European Cup’s early years.
Despite the lofty expectations at Lyon, former Manchester City star and England teammate Lucy Bronze believes the 25-year-old will thrive in France.
“We already play together for England down the right-hand side and have a good understanding,” she told the Metro.
“She is 25, the same age I was when I moved to France two summers ago and she’s won so much at home with City that now she wants to win the Champions League. She knows Lyon is the best place to do that.
“Nikita can develop her game and be with the best players in the world. The Champions League is now the draw for players in England and her move can be good news for England too.”
For debut for her new club, she’ll have to wait till August.
But the 2019 Women’s World Cup semi-finals take place at the Olympic Park in Lyon. So Parris, and Bronze, will be hoping she’ll visiting her new home a little sooner.