There’s an impressive intensity about Vivianne Miedema. That would be expected if it was just the sort of focus, organisation and dedication that makes her one of the best footballers in the world, of course - but her aura is so overwhelming that it comes as no surprise that in her native Netherlands she has been turned into a comic-book heroine.
Obviously, in real life, her superpower is scoring goals.
Miedema is the very definition of a trailblazer. She signed for SC Heerenveen in her homeland at the age of 14, making her senior debut the year after; she helped Bayern Munich to the title in 2014-15, with her performances drawing comparisons to compatriot Arjen Robben; and she was part of the Netherlands squad that shocked the continent when they won Euro 2017. She will also likely be leading the line for them during this summer’s Women’s World Cup – and she doesn’t turn 23 until July.
This year – her second season with Arsenal - has been one of her most successful ever. By February, she had already broken the record for most goals in a single Women’s Super League season – and continued to add to that already impressive haul as she fired the Gunners to the title.
Miedema has said repeatedly that she does not set herself goalscoring targets, that all she wants to do is to contribute to the team’s success.
“I think it’s more because I used to be a [number] 10, and I like to be part of the play, like to assist goals, and it’s not all about just scoring for me,” she says.
Winning the PFA Player of the Year Award was well deserved recognition of her achievements – and she says it meant all the more because it came from her peers.
“It’s an honour, obviously,” she smiles. “Players you play against vote for that, and I think it can only mean the most to you because that is a lot of respect from the players around you and your opponents.”
A Feyenoord fan growing up, she always watched English football, scouring the net to find streams of live matches, and took a particular interest in the Premier League careers of Dirk Kuyt and Robin van Persie. She thinks that kind of familiarity is why so many Dutch players are making their homes in England – most notably Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk, who won the men’s PFA Player of the Year award this year, and her Arsenal team-mates Danielle van de Donk and Dominique Bloodworth (nee Janssen).
“We learn the language, and I would say England is quite similar to how it is in Holland,” she reflects. “It’s literally only a 30-minute flight away, so it’s really easy to get away but still be really close to home. I think the way we play football really fits in as well. It’s amazing to be able to play football in England, as a man or as a woman.”
Despite the evident quality of Dutch players, their achievement as a collective at international level has been limited in recent years – and even when the women won Euro 2017 as the host nation, it was still something of a shock victory. Miedema plays down the chances of the Netherlands launching a challenge to win this summer’s Women’s World Cup.
“We loved winning the Euros and we loved playing at home, and I know that a lot of people expect a lot from us right now, but I don’t really think that’s realistic,” she says. “We’ve got certain qualities that will come out at the World Cup and we can come really far, but it’s not that we’re saying, ‘Oh, we want to win the World Cup.’
“I still think we’re underdogs. It’s only our second World Cup. Last time we got [sent] home after the round of 16, so it is a new experience. It’s not a Euros, so I definitely think we’ve still got a lot of experience to gain. We don’t need to win it yet.”
Nonetheless, Miedema’s personal impact is such that she was turned into a comic book character by writer Joke Reijnders and illustrator Sanneke Prins, featuring in a whole series named after her – ‘Vivianne Voetbal’. She plays down the significance of her selection, saying that she was probably chosen because of her “kid-friendliness”.
“I love just giving the kids a bit of training, and I love inspiring people,” she says. “I think that was kind of one and one makes two - so they came to me and said, ‘This is the idea, this is what we want, are you open for that?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, definitely, it’s an amazing idea!’”
She considers the idea that she is essentially a superhero to her young readers.
“I think sometimes I don’t really realise,” she says thoughtfully, before continuing, “Even now talking about it, like, I should probably put more energy in, maybe feel more special about it!”
One of the biggest challenges of the series was getting the artwork right. Miedema admits she was not too keen on the first drafts – but it was a tough task as the publishers wanted the character to resemble her but not be a caricature or an exact portrait.
“I look good now,” she grins, before declaring her views on the requirements for a comic book hero’s appearance with another wry smile - “I look cute now, and that’s all you need.”