After Lucy Bronze signed for Barcelona last Saturday, her phone rang. It was Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas who took over the bronze as Fifa’s best player of the year.
“Alexia texted me saying she was so excited to play with me on the team,” Bronze said. “Things like that give you a lot of confidence when players want to play with you and teams want you. Who doesn’t like being told he’s good? It gives you confidence and confidence plays a role huge in your performance.
Bronze’s return to Manchester City after a trophy-laden spell with Lyon hadn’t been quite the fairy tale the right-back may have hoped for. In two years at Manchester, some of which were marred by injuries, she won the FA Cup shortly after her return and the Continental League Cup last season.
The dream of winning the Champions League with City seems as distant as it was when she left for Lyon: City collapsed in qualifying against Real Madrid last season and lost in the quarter-finals against Barcelona the previous season.
Last month, after City overtook Manchester United in third place in the Champions League after a terrible start put them out of contention for the title before it got off to a proper start, the Bronze agent’s phone rang .
“I had offers from Lyon and Barça, the two best teams in the world,” she says. “It wasn’t bad to be able to choose from that.” It gives me a lot of confidence knowing that these big, successful teams want to sign me, want me to play, know that I can make a difference for their team.
It was not a key to leave the Women’s Super League again. “I haven’t really thought about it, to be honest,” says Bronze. “I knew I wanted to play abroad again. My experience at Lyon was the best period of my career, the best moments of my career.
“Going out and pushing myself into a different culture, a different experience, playing with the best players in the world – getting the chance to do that again was a no-brainer.
“Maybe I can’t brag about having the same experience with Barca again, but I would love to because it was the greatest experience of my life. I haven’t had quite the experience in England. same.
Having the deal in place before the Euros at home was important. “It was pretty much over the week after the season ended; I just had to find the time to sort everything out. It was hard to keep your mouth shut because it was so exciting.
“The only thing I said to Barca and my agent was that I wanted it done before the tournament – get it done, get it out of the way. I want to be able to focus on England I don’t want questions about the next club you’re going to and all the talk and gossip about it.
Success with England matters. It’s the blank space on the list of Bronze career results. She’s a winner and now, with former Dutch coach Sarina Wiegman at the helm, England have an experienced winning coach. “Having a winning experience is unmatched,” says Bronze.
“You come back to club football, the Champions League final between Lyon and Barça – everyone chose Barça but it was Lyon with [Amandine] Henry who has this mentality to just pick up the game and go for it. Winning is an invaluable experience and myself and Sarina both have that in heaps.
Henry’s Lyon teammate and series co-winner Ada Hegerberg makes English Group A rivals Norway potential suitors, Bronze says.
“Ada is just a winner, the girl is crazy about that. I remember games where she would come to me beforehand and say, ‘You just put the ball in the box and I score.’ obsessed with scoring, she’s obsessed with winning the ball.
“There aren’t many No 9s who can score goals and then come back and tackle and put their bodies on the line. She’s so big and she’s got pace and strength, fitness.
“What separates her for me is this crazy mentality she has; it’s something you can’t really affect. You can’t really get inside his head – I could try.
England are also in contention, and expectations are rising as we inch closer to the opener against Austria at Old Trafford on July 6. For Bronze, an unused Euro 2013 substitute as England failed to break out of their squad, time flew by.
“It’s so different. me and jordan [Nobbs] were the two babies on the team – we didn’t really talk,” she says. “We were sent Nike boots. Hardly any of the players were sponsored so no one had boots, which is funny because I’ve just been outside with all the kids from the grassroots football clubs. [who were watching training at St George’s Park] and they asked for boots. I just gave it to them because I can have boots whenever I want. But at the time, we received these boots from Nike. All we did was give our size. We couldn’t choose anything else, no name on it.
“They came a little too small on us. Me and Jordan didn’t dare ask for a different pair, so we wore boots all the time that were too small for us. We’d be in trouble if we even thought about doing it now. It makes me laugh because these days the guy from Nike comes in and he measures your feet and makes sure they fit like a glove.
“Those first Euros was like, ‘You get what you get girls and you crack up,’ and we did that.”