Lieke Martinez looks surprised and asks if she is correct. in her autobiography for youAs of 2019, she has said that she “would like to be the best in the world again”. Do you still want it? The soccer star who was chosen by FIFA as the best soccer player in 2017 answers: “Did I really say that?”.
In four years, not only a lot has changed in her life, but also in women’s football. The public interest, the salaries, the number of matches, just about everything has increased, including the opposition, the competition for prizes. You will not repeat this statement so quickly now. “Actually, I never meant it that way.”
On Sunday, the 30-year-old from Limburg will start her third World Championship, in Dunedin, New Zealand, playing the Netherlands against Portugal. She was there when the soccer players made their debut in Canada in 2015 and also when the Netherlands reached the final in France four years ago and lost to the United States. Two years earlier, the team had surprisingly become European champions, the Netherlands were at their peak and Martins was a trendsetter.
Now he looked at her expectantly again. If only because another star striker is not involved: Vivian Miedema is recovering in England from a serious knee injury. Without a goalscorer, Martens is an eye-catcher, still the most iconic of the team and also the woman with creative ideas, where assists and goals should come.
But a question is often asked: Will Holland ever see the “real” Lakey Martens again? Underlying this question is the longing for 2017, the year the Netherlands won the European title in their own country. Everything was beautiful that summer, especially Martins’ dribbling. After the tournament she also left for Barcelona, her dream club. Everything seemed to work out in her life at that moment.
Since then, Dutch fans haven’t seen Martens very often. She was regularly plagued by injuries, at the previous World Cup in France she played everything, but she also suffered a toe injury. After that, the entire team underperformed. Last year, the team fell sadly at the European Championships in England, where Martens also pulled out early due to injury.
More by the author
Dirk Jacob Neubur, sports reporter De Volkskrant He writes about football and handball. He was a former Turkey correspondent and political journalist.
“I’ve been fit for a while,” says Hope now. “And I think the way we play now suits me. High pressing, that’s also part of this team, shooting, attacking and just playing football.
The top is wider
The Dutch national team is busy reconfiguring itself under national coach Anders Junker. Recent results against secondary teams such as Austria, Poland and Belgium, who have been badly beaten, give hope. At the same time, everyone understands that the summit in women’s football has become wider since the last World Cup.
In this World Cup, along with America, Spain, Germany, England and France are the main contenders. Canada, Sweden and Brazil are dangerous outsiders. The Netherlands would like to join the top countries again, but they are not the pre-favourites.
“Women’s soccer has been taken to a higher level,” says Martins. “It is not easy to say what will happen in this World Cup, because everything has developed very quickly in recent years.” And she didn’t stop either. “I think I’m becoming a different player,” she analyzes herself. “I am no longer the likey who eludes everyone.”
The question of the ‘real’ Martens can sometimes irk the footballing star, who is now a PSG player. She points out that they have underperformed in recent years. She bites regularly.
She honestly says that Dutch journalists rarely see her working at her club. Then she noted that her club’s statistics had been excellent for several seasons. With Barcelona she won the Champions League in 2021, in which she played an important role. She also regularly scores important goals for the Dutch national team.
“I played a little less this season at Paris Saint-Germain,” she says. She’s honest about it, too. I started injured, and then I wasn’t always in the starting lineup. But when I see what happened in recent years: if only once. I played just about everything for five or six years. It is no coincidence that many women of my generation have been seriously injured. It was just so many award contenders, myself included.
The answer is typical of Martens. She is always self-critical, and she will not easily say that she is doing well. At the same time, she often refers to the world around her, the world she desperately wanted to belong to, and in which she has achieved more than she could ever dream of as a young soccer star in New Bergen, but also recognized dark sides.
The Limburger has often spoken of the loneliness she experienced away from home. She traveled at a young age to Germany, then to Sweden and then also to Barcelona, however beautiful that move was, she was often alone.
For years, she lived at a great distance from her family and her boyfriend, Benjamin van Leer, the former goalkeeper of Ajax and Sparta, among others, whom she married before preparing for the World Cup. One of the reasons she left Barcelona for Paris SG, closer to home, was to her friends and family.
After 2017, something else came along: the fame she was never ready for and never was waiting for. As one of the first footballers, especially in the Netherlands, she had to deal with it.
Advantages and disadvantages
Of course, I enjoyed sitting on the podium with Cristiano Ronaldo and sharing a private jet with Lionel Messi, where she was chosen as the best player in Europe and the world. She also took advantage of her business opportunities, appearing in television commercials and appearing on billboards.
“I definitely didn’t want to miss it,” she explains. But I had to get used to the expectation pattern, which I found difficult. My name often sounds when we win, but also when we lose.
And then she again pointed out everything that was happening around. Anyway, that’s the way it is in men’s football and that’s where we want to go, we want to make that gap smaller. This is what happens to me, okay? I hope it happens to more girls, and that means we’re making progress.
in for you She says she was lying awake the night before the interview. It’s not that bad anymore, but it’s still not her hobby. To reporters attending the press conference before they left for Australia and New Zealand, she said again, “I really like you, but I don’t necessarily want the attention.”
After all these years at the top, Martens can now handle it, but she’s not going to slip completely from it. She is still aware of her judgments, and the criticism she receives. But how do you control yourself? In her autobiography she also says: “I don’t think I’m at my peak yet. The best Lakey Martens no one has seen yet.” How do you look at it now?
“I’ve really learned a lot in recent years,” she says, “I consider myself a lot more of a complete player than I was in 2017. And I think my return has also been much higher in recent years than it was back then.”
Six years ago, Holland was a relative newcomer who could still surprise the elusive Martens. Then she became the star, the best player in the world, who was closely watched by opponents. She had to adjust her game, because she couldn’t play soccer with an open mind like before.
“But of course people like to see Leakey dodge everyone else,” she realizes. “I also think Leakey from her time is more fun to watch.”
The desire for true “truth” will never completely disappear, and expectations will remain high. But I’ve learned to handle it better and better. I think I’m calm in my head now. I personally know where I stand and what I can bring in at the moment.
She is not at all preoccupied with becoming the best in the world right now. “Of course I will continue to strive to be my best,” Martinez says when she has time to ponder the unexpected question. This was my ceiling, so of course I want to do it again. But in football it’s not about the individual, I really want to win the World Cup now.
1992 December 16, New Bergen
2010 Tourist Office
2011 Standard Liege
2022 Paris SG
2011 The debut of Orange against China 1-1. Martens has played 145 international matches
She became European champion in 2017 and lost the World Cup final in 2019.
In 2017, she was named FIFA Women’s Footballer of the Year.
“Professional reader. Award-winning gamer. Zombie buff. Social media junkie. Bacon maven. Web scholar.”