It is said that success is not solely measured by accomplishment but by one's ability to inspire action in others.
Standing proudly as FIFA's World Player of the Year, two-time PFA Women's Players' Player of the Year, two-time BBC Women's Footballer of the Year and 2019 UEFA Women's Player of the Year, Lucy Bronze boasts a glittering trophy cabinet - and those are just her individual accolades.
On the pitch, she is also a three-time Champions League winner and has scooped a clean sweep of domestic honours in both England and France at Club level, whilst helping England to SheBelieves Cup glory and an historic bronze medal finish at the 2015 World Cup with a starring role.
Now also an Olympian, she is quite simply the ultimate role model - and it's a status she holds with pride but she has always made one thing very clear: while her aim is naturally to positively influence the next generation of female footballers, she's just as determined to inspire the boys too - and that achievement was clear for all to see in the aftermath of the 2015 Women's World Cup.
Women's football in England had been thrust into the spotlight, capturing the hearts of the nation as the valiant and courageous Lionesses roared into the latter stages of the competition, clinching a bronze medal for the first time and piquing interest in the sport to phenomenal levels.
Despite a notable time difference with the tournament in Canada, captivated fans stayed long into the night to tune in from home and after the tournament, snapped up tickets to watch their heroes in person as attendances grew.
One Lioness in particular roared louder than the others, as Bronze proved influential, leading by example and scoring two crucial goals from right-back in the knock-out rounds. Her efforts were recognised with the England Player of the Year gong and a place in the 2015 World Cup All-Star Squad but it was her impact on the younger generation which proved the most significant achievement.
Shortly after the tournament, a poster was unveiled by England partner Vauxhall, which celebrated the explosion of women's football in the country, depicting a small boy playing football, sporting an England shirt with 'Bronze 12' emblazoned on the back.
It was a bold statement but ultimately, it was true. People of all genders, ages and backgrounds were suddenly looking up to female footballers, falling in love with a side of the beautiful game they had never experienced before. A new passion sparked; a new era unfolding.
For Bronze, it's a treasured memory...
‘That was a big moment – not just for me but for women’s football – because people were making that link: a female sportswoman can inspire anyone – boys and girls. I absolutely loved it and we actually had the picture framed.’
Upon rejoining City last September - the Club she had helped to league and cup glory between 2014 and 2017, plus successive Champions League semi-finals - Bronze declared her return to England was not solely in pursuit of a new challenge in regards to on-field success: she also wanted to continue to build a legacy.
Following a remarkable three-year stint at European heavyweights Lyon, the right-back deservedly received a hero's welcome back to her home country - her hopes sparking excitement for the future of the game - and her revelation that she had returned as 'a better player, better leader and better person' provided even more cause for optimism.
“I want to help the young players become the best they can be. I want to teach them – take them under my wing and say: ‘This is how you win, this is how to be the best, this is what you need to do for Club and country.’ The way things are going, the English league is going to be the best league in the world.”
Bronze's venture into football tells a familiar story: a love of the beautiful game born from family ties, as a girl following in the footsteps of her older brother. Like so many footballers of the women's game, she was the sole female representative in her youth teams but living up to her iconic middle name 'Tough', it was her unrivalled power, strength and speed, and a steely determination, that stood her out from the crowd.
Born in Berwick-upon-Tweed, her career began with north-east side Sunderland where she helped the Black Cats to FA Women's National League North success and a place in the 2009 Women's Cup Final, alongside long-standing close friend and current teammate Demi Stokes.
A spell in the United States at the University of North Carolina also yielded plenty of success and broken records, as the defender helped to clinch the Division 1 title and became the first British player to win an NCAA Cup. She then headed back across the Atlantic, donning both the blue and red of Merseyside, playing an influential role in Liverpool's back-to-back FA Women's Super League glory, earning the PFA Women's Players' Player of the Year award for her efforts.
Swapping Merseyside for Manchester in 2014, she joined Nick Cushing's City and became an integral cog in our all-conquering machine, lifting a league and cup double in 2016 (with the winning goal in the Continental Cup Final), netting a goal in the 2017 Women's Cup Final and inspiring the side to consecutive Champions League semi-finals at the first attempts. Unsurprisingly, her contribution was recognised with more Player of the Year awards.
It was during her time at the Academy Stadium that Bronze truly became a household name, gaining a reputation as one of the most exciting players; not just in the English game but on the world stage - her frightening power and pace a terrifying prospect for both opposition attack and defences.
She flourished on the international front too with the aforementioned leading role in the Lionesses' 2015 World Cup - the best performance by a senior England team since the men's 1966 World Cup triumph - and her awesome attributes caught the attention of Champions League giants Lyon, who swooped to capture her signature in 2017.
The full-back soon found France to her liking and went on to add more shining silverware to her already trophy-laden cabinet, bagging three successive domestic and European titles, two Coupe de France Féminine victories and one Trophée des Championnes.
The individual accolades continued to pour in too - the BBC Women's Footballer of the Year gongs and 2019 UEFA Women's Player of the Year accolade two of many notable achievements.
Now back in England, Bronze is ready to take her own game to the next level, as well as those around her. At the age of 29, she certainly has plenty of years left in the tank but the question is always posed:
‘Who will be the next Lucy Bronze?’
The next three years have the potential for women's football to ascend a meteoric rise. As Team GB and England chase Olympic, European Championship and World Cup glory, the spotlight will shine on the women's game once more and coupled with the exciting news of increased television coverage, the sport could rocket into prominence.
While Bronze may have achieved every piece of silverware available at Club level, her influence in securing a gold medal on the international stage could well prove to be her greatest triumph yet...
By Caroline Oatway
“This is the biggest three years of women’s football in England. Having three tournaments in a row is insane. Any player who can be part of one or all three will be very lucky to have that on their CV - being part of the momentum and change in women’s football.”