Lucy Bronze sacrificed personal glory to play for England – and then banned her mum from picking up her award and meeting Cristiano Ronaldo .
The newly-crowned European women’s footballer of the year passed up the chance to brush shoulders with the stars at a glittering event in Monaco after winning UEFA’s top prize.
Instead of standing on the podium alongside Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk, the 27-year-old was battling it out in an unfamiliar midfield role for the Lionesses in Belgium.
Bronze became the first English winner, beating off competition from Lyon stablemates Amandine Henry and Ada Hegerberg.
And she also had to kick back at an attempt by her mum to go in her place – because her wannabe proxy was desperate to meet the Portuguese megastar.
She said: “I was told about being nominated a couple of weeks ago. My coach at Lyon said to me: ‘They really want you there.’
“So I texted Phil Neville and asked if I could go. He said: ‘Luce, we’ve got a game.’
“I replied and said: ‘Yep, say no more, I’m not leaving.’ It didn’t matter to me that it was only a friendly, I wasn’t leaving the team to collect an award – a game is more important.
“After I won, I texted my mum – she was the only person I’d told – and she offered to go and collect it on my behalf.
“I told her that I’d got it – we’d had a little ceremony a couple of days ago and Phil presented me with it. She said: ‘Are you sure? I really want to go and meet Ronaldo.’ My mum speaks Portuguese too.
“She said: ‘Ooh, I can go and talk to him’ – it was then that I told her she definitely wasn’t going.”
UEFA dropped a clanger as this was a week designated for friendly internationals and the clash of commitments left Bronze in a no-win situation.
Yet she tip-toed around the problem in diplomatic fashion, although her words conveyed a tinge of disappointment that her heroics over the past 12 months weren’t receiving proper recognition.
The gritty north-easterner was voted the second-best player at the World Cup, behind American Megan Rapinoe, and won the Champions League with Lyon.
She added: “I don’t feel any different – I don’t think it’s sunk in yet.
“But I’m not striving to win personal awards. I’m not striving to be the best player in Europe. I just want to win things for England and Lyon. That’s my goal.
“For me, it is more special to be the first English player to win the European award. It’s more important for English football than the fact it’s me because it shows the game is growing in this country.”
However, when pressed as to her feelings on missing out, she added: “Amandine Henry has been nominated for it so many times but she’s never won it and she said it’s an amazing evening to be a part of.
“She said it’s one of the best she has been to.
“But I prefer to be on a pitch playing football than at a ceremony anyway so that’s fine. But I have heard that UEFA are trying to make sure there isn’t another clash with the dates.”
There is still the likelihood that Bronze, as European football’s finest, will be nominated for the Ballon D’Or.
The question is: Will she go?
And the answer?
“That,” she said, “depends on whether or not I’ve got a game….”