Saturday 31 August 2019, 22:14

Mjelde: Hansen’s become a natural leader

  • The Norway captain gives her backing to The Best FIFA Women’s Player nominee Caroline Graham Hansen

  • Recalls the first time she saw her team-mate play

  • Reveals her greatest skill off the pitch

“I’d heard a lot about her before I saw her play,” said Norway defender Maren Mjelde, recalling Caroline Graham Hansen’s arrival in the national team. “They said she was the most talented player Norway had ever produced. I was very impressed the first time I saw her at a national-team training session. She was only 16 and her technique was superb. She could take the ball round anyone and she wasn’t afraid to express herself on the pitch. She settled into the squad quickly, played with a lot of panache and was very down to earth off the pitch. That’s the way Caroline’s always been.”

One of the most influential figures in the Norway dressing room, Mjelde told why she believes her team-mate should win The Best FIFA Women’s Player 2019 award.

“Caro has the kind of attacking skills that not many players have,” said the Chelsea player. “Her ball control is amazing and in terms of technique she’s one of the best players I’ve ever seen. She’s a very powerful lone striker. In the last two years she’s grown an awful lot, in two ways that complement each other: she’s a great leader and a great team player at the same time. All her energies go into helping the team to play better and win.

“She was crucial for us at the World Cup and I still don’t think we’ve seen the best of her,” added the Norway captain. “She’s got the quality to change games, and when it comes to one-on-one situations, she’s the best in the world.”

Maren Mjelde, Caroline Graham Hansen of Norway during 2019 FIFA Womens World Championship qualifiers

Part of the Norway side that finished runners-up at UEFA Women’s EURO 2013, Hansen missed the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 on account of a knee injury, but made up for it at France 2019. The Norwegians owed their run to the last eight in large part to the talent of the 24-year-old, who picked up two Player of the Match awards, against Korea Republic and Australia.

Now a Barcelona player, Hansen showed all her technique and power in France. But what kind of person is she away from the game?

“She’s become a natural leader,” explained Mjelde. “She likes to take on responsibilities and always strives for excellence in everything she does. She loves talking about football. It’s her passion. She’s a wonderful girl and she looks out for everyone and has her feet firmly on the ground. She can also laugh at herself and she likes a joke. I’m delighted to have her as a team-mate and a friend. She’s a great person and has a very big heart.”

Aside from her ball skills, does Hansen have any other award-winning talents?

"Caro loves her food. She pretty much sends me a photo every day of what she’s cooked for dinner and it always looks delicious. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her publish a book about cooking or food one day.