Five years ago, Emma Hayes made a promise to herself and Fran Kirby. Those were the days when Kirby was on the brink of becoming — but not quite yet — a bona fide football superstar. She had been the only player from WSL 2 to go to that summer’s World Cup, her frankly ludicrous goalscoring feats having left her unignorable. She began with 32 goals in 21 appearances in 2012-13, then 24 in 16 and 11 from five.

At Canada 2015, she brought her nimble, fleet-footed flair to a new audience. There, you might recall, for better or worse she was dubbed the “Mini Messi”, a nickname that initially hung to her neck like an albatross but that, over time, she has learned to bear with a shrug. To paraphrase Toni Duggan, Kirby’s England team-mate, why could she never just be Fran? In any case: when was the last time you heard her called that? Kirby’s own fame goes far beyond such comparisons now.





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