Norwegian striker Ada Hegerberg said the introduction of a women’s Ballon d’Or was a “big step forward” for the game, playing down suggestions her historic victory was overshadowed after being asked to perform a ‘twerk’ live on stage.
The Lyon star — whose prolific form in front of goal helped the French club secure a third successive Champions League victory — edged out Danish forward Pernille Harder to claim the inaugural prize at a ceremony in Paris on Monday.
But the 23-year-old was asked if she would perform a sexually provocative dance by French host DJ, Martin Solveig, and appeared embarrassed as she rejected the request.
Hegerberg later said: “He came to see me after and apologized. The Ballon d’Or is the most important thing.”
“I am touched and very proud, for women’s football, for myself, for the club. I share this with Olympique Lyonnais, my teammates, the staff,” she beamed after joining men’s winner Luka Modric and men’s best young player Kylian Mbappe on the stage with her trophy.
“It’s historic, it’s incredible, a great day for women’s football and a big step forward.”
Hegerberg, one of seven players from the all-conquering Lyon side to feature among the 15 nominees, dismissed suggestions that the night was marred by the “twerk” request.
“I didn’t feel it was like that at all to be honest and I am sad if people thought about the situation like that.”
Hegerberg was Lyon’s top scorer with 15 goals — with one coming in the Champions League final in Kiev in May, as Lyon came from behind to beat VfL Wolfsburg 4-1 after extra time and retain the trophy. Harder had put the Germans in front in that game.
Messi, Ronaldo comparisons
Lyon also won the French title for the 12th season in succession, with Hegerberg top-scoring with 31 goals, and she continues to bang in the goals for her team who are top of the table again this season.
Her goal-scoring exploits have led to comparisons with five-time Ballon d’Or winners Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and she felt that had made the difference for her compared to her Lyon colleagues.
“I think the fact I scored 54 goals last season and 53 goals this year — it’s a lot of goals in one year,” she said.
“I know it’s difficult to score 50 goals every season. It is a challenge. That is where I set the bar.”
Hegerberg, whose elder sister Andrine plays for Lyon’s biggest rivals in France, Paris Saint-Germain, is a Norwegian international but has not played for her country since their disappointing showing at Euro 2017 in the Netherlands.
It remains to be seen if she will return in time for next year’s World Cup, which will be played in France with the final in Lyon.
Of the other Lyon contenders, German midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsan came closest to her, finishing third in the voting.
Brazil’s Marta — recent winner of FIFA’s best player prize — was fourth for the award organised by France Football magazine following a vote by journalists from around the world.
Lyon defender Wendie Renard, a star for the French national team, said Hegerberg’s competitive spirit had also helped her stand out.
“Ada is a competitor, she doesn’t like losing. We’re very similar in that sense,” said Renard.
“Even the smallest detail in training makes a difference.
“She’s a great goal-scorer. The slightest bit of space, and any ball that’s around, we know it’s in the back of the net.”