Being someone who has followed Pernille Harder for many years, even the word ‘thrilled’ felt weak to describe how I felt when it was announced (finally) that she would join Chelsea.
Yes, she is my favourite footballer in the whole world and we all got them. Our favourites, the ones that we would take a fight for without thinking twice. I see myself as one of the lucky ones, who have had the opportunity to witness the Danish superstar live in action on several occasions.
Yes, I am ready to argue with others, any time, why she should be considered as one of the world’s best. (Editor’s note: I can confirm this is true.)
Pernille Harder is world-class. Her movement on and off the ball together with the determination her persona radiates is unique. Pernille Harder is not a great footballer. She is an amazing footballer who is one of the world’s best in her position. Watching Pernille Harder play football in person, sitting in a stadium, where you are lucky enough to have the Dane in real life vision, is a supernatural football experience. Not only for all the things that are mentioned above but also because she gets you to realise that the Pernille Harder football experience is about her constant movements, her way of continuously looking at what is happening around her while always trying and managing to adapt to the show on the field. It’s her vision for the game that makes her one of a kind.
The story of Pernille Harder
When Pernille Harder signed for Linköpings FC in the Swedish top-flight back in summer 2012, at only 19 years old, she was named as one of the most promising young talents in Denmark. An international track-record of 28 appearances in Denmark’s senior national team with a statistic of an already impressive 15 goals. She made her debut in the national team when she was 16, coming on as a substitute when Denmark beat Georgia with a 15-0 victory back in 2009. How many goals did she score on her debut? Three. Hat-trick. Then in November 2019 when Denmark went up against Georgia in a Women’s Euro 2022 qualification game, she did it again. Hat-trick.
Pernille Harder is 28 years old. She has appeared 123 times for her country and has scored 64 goals. If she scores two more, she will become Denmark’s most prolific goal scorer ever.
Who can forget her cracking performance when she scored the equaliser in the final of the Euro’s 2017?
Pernille Harder was with Linköpings FC for four and half years. During those years she scored 70 goals in 80 games. Throughout the 2016 season, she scored 23 goals and had ten assists. Linköpings FC won the league that year and Pernille Harder signed with Wolfsburg in the Frauen Bundesliga.
Pernille Harder came to Sweden as a striker and left as the Swedish League’s MVP two years in a row, and as a full-blown out attacking midfielder. Martin Sjögren, now the head coach for Norway’s women’s national team, who at that time was Linköping’s head coach, gave Pernille Harder a role in the midfield, just behind the strikers. Here, Harder could move freely in her No.10 role, feeding the strikers with assists with what appeared without even looking, whilst also ending up in the most perfect positions inside and outside the box to score herself as well.
Harder talked about her move to the German top-flight as a sure way to develop as a player. To develop you had to dare yourself to take steps in your career that you aren’t sure of. ”Uncertain steps”, she called it in an interview with Danish DRTV.
The Dane must have felt some kind of pressure, but even so, she never showed it. In the fourth game with Wolfsburg, she scored the first of the 105 goals in 114 games, her track record when she left Germany late in the summer, 2020. Harder carried the green Wolves on her shoulders, and it was no secret that their way of playing and the system was all built to fit the Danish superstar.
“Pernille is a very complete player. She is particularly convincing due to her good overview of the game and her strong technique. Pernille is a real team player with a very strong head on her shoulders,” said Wolfburg head coach, Stephen Lerch, about his playmaker, in 2018, when Harder placed 1st in The Guardian’s top 100.
Harder’s first season with Wolfsburg showed an average of 0.54 goals per game. Her last season with the German giants said 1.53 goals per 90 minutes played.
Chelsea and the expectations
When Pernille Harder signed a three-year deal with Chelsea she became the most expensive female player of all times. With that, expectations became high. When she was interviewed in the Danish podcast Mediano she was asked about the expectations:
“I play the same football. The fact that I was sold for that amount of money and became the most expensive player, that’s for the things that I have done in the past. It’s easy to think that I should go out and suddenly do more than I did previously, but me winning all these awards and getting that price tag, that’s for the things that I achieved before I joined Chelsea. Of course, I always want to keep developing so the price tag can be bigger next time and so I can win more awards, but about feeling the pressure? Of course, this first period since I moved, every time I’m mentioned, I’m also labeled, ‘The most expensive female football player’.”
“And some people seem to expect that I will dribble past a whole team and score a goal because I’m the most expensive female football player, but that’s why it’s important to be aware of your own capabilities, and I’m perfectly aware of what I’m capable of doing and I know what I’ve accomplished in the past. But sure, it is possible to feel pressure in this situation, but I’ve worked a lot on my mentality.”
Seven WSL games into the 2020/2021 season Harder stats were 0.60 goals per 90 minutes played. Already a higher number than her first season in Germany.
Harder is the best version of herself as a footballer in the No.10 role. Give her that freedom and she’ll move like the gazelle. She is the great link-up player she tends to be when speeding up and the awesome team player the ones who have been playing and training with her before claim she always has been and is. I interviewed a player in Linköping, Emma Lennartsson, who played with Harder during her time in Sweden. These were her words about her former teammate, now regarded as one of the world’s best:
“I also admire players, who despite their knowledge of how good they are, take their time to teach others what they know about the game. Pernille Harder is a perfect example in that way. She hadn’t had her break-through yet when I started to play here, but we all knew how good she was, and it’s no secret that our play evolved around her a lot. Still, she always had the time to give other players feedback and encouraged them all the time.”
Pernille Harder and Emma Hayes
Emma Hayes has a squad full of superstars and world-class players. This is no longer news. Her job is to make sure that her team wins games. Pernille Harder has scored 2 goals and has 1 official assist in WSL. If Harder hadn’t been the one taken that run down to the right-hand side of Arsenal’s penalty area, if she had not gone for the cross that day, Chelsea would’ve lost. Instead, she did, and a deflected cross from the Dane, went into the goal, giving Chelsea a very important point.
If she hadn’t taken that shot, in Chelsea’s 9-0 win against Bristol City, that was denied by Sophie Baggaley, only to end up in front of Niamh Charles, Charles wouldn’t have got her first goal for Chelsea. And if she hadn’t aimed for the goal this Sunday when playing West Ham, their goalkeeper Arnold hadn’t been forced to box the ball out so it ended up at Sam Kerr’s feet so the criticized Aussie could have had her second goal leading up to the hat-trick. There’s plenty more to come for Chelsea if Hayes’ dare to play her record signing in the No.10 role more clearly and frequently.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Pernille Harder, three months in.
UEFA Player of the Year 2020
World Football Summit/AS Player of the Year 2020
Goal 50 Best Player Award 2020
Player of the Year in FourFourTwo’s 2020 Awards
Lower Saxony Footballer of the Year 2020 as the First Women
Germany’s Women’s Footballer of the Year 2020
Frauen Bundesliga Top Scorer 2020 (27 goals)
Written by Mia Eriksson (@mia_eriksson)
Edited by Jai Mcintosh @jjmcintosh5 and Rob Pratley