Over the past few weeks, the Barclays FA Women’s Super League has inherited some incredible players from across the globe.
In this article, I will be analysing some of the biggest signings and considering what this means for the future of the Barclays FA Women’s Super League.
Alex Morgan (Tottenham Hotspur)
The inspiration behind this article was Alex Morgan signing for Tottenham Hotspur, so it’s the best place to start. Morgan’s transfer was kept completely under wraps until it was written about by National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) journalist Alex Linehan. She has scored 107 goals for her country; helping win them the FIFA Women’s World Cup in both 2015 and 2019. It’s for this goalscoring record that Spurs fans (and many others) are very excited.
Morgan joins a Spurs team that is still in transition following their promotion to the top flight in 2019, however, this signing could change this. I have compared the signing of Morgan at Spurs as being like Karim Benzema signing for Newcastle United (or a similar team closer to the bottom half of the men’s Premier League). It has the same shock value. Morgan is a world class striker, who has won almost everything imaginable for a player, and will be an amazing talent for Spurs. I am still in disbelief that the club have managed to recruit her.
Once Morgan was announced on twitter, numerous Spurs’ men’s team fans replied that they would been tuning in to see her play. This is amazing news for Spurs and the women’s game as a whole who will receive greater publicity. Morgan has such a large international pull that even people who do not know anything about women’s football, will have heard her name and might be up for watching a game or two. The only downside is that the move is only a temporary one but there is no doubt that her signing will have a huge impact on the way the Barclays FA Women’s Super League is perceived.
Pernille Harder (Chelsea)
Pernille Harder’s transfer to Chelsea again highlights that the world’s top players are wanting moves to the Barclays FA Women’s Super League. The all-time record women’s signing created quite a stir when she left VfL Wolfsburg and signed for Chelsea earlier this month. Harder made her Chelsea debut, coming off the bench in their 1-1 draw with Manchester United before starting against Bristol City and scoring an incredible goal. Harder’s backheeled finish shows the confidence and ability of the player and she will definitely be an exciting prospect.
Harder brings with her an extensive list of accolades and experience to the current champions. The Dane is captain of national team and led VfL Wolfsburg to four Frauen-Bundesliga titles and two UEFA Women’s Champions League finals. Along with Fran Kirby and Sam Kerr, Harder gives Chelsea and even greater attacking threat as they challenge for the title again.
Lucy Bronze (Manchester City)
Lucy Bronze’s return to Manchester City after three years with Lyon has certainly caused quite the stir. Her move was well-documented by media outlets before it was announced, but this did not deter from the hype surrounding the official announcement. The defender left Lyon where she won three UEFA Women’s Champions Leagues. In 2019, Bronze became the first English player to win the UEFA Women’s Player of the Year.
Bronze won the FA Women’s Super League 1 with City in 2016 and will be hoping to pick up where she left off in regards to her accomplishments with the team. Bronze moved to City with fellow former-Lyon teammate Alex Greenwood who signed for the club just hours later. This important signing also highlights the large amount of English talent that now represents City with nine of the Lionesses’ recent training squad being at The Academy Stadium.
Although Bronze’s debut was overshadowed by their 0-0 draw to Brighton & Hove Albion, she will be looking to make an impact in the next few matches.
Steph Catley (Arsenal)
Catley signed for Arsenal at the beginning of July and adds to the Australian contingent in The Gunners’ dressing room. The 26-year-old defender joined Arsenal from Melbourne City FC and is playing in Europe for the first time. Catley teams up with former coach Joe Monterumo and also former teammate Lydia Williams to add greater depth to the right side of defence. Catley is the Australian national team’s vice-captain and joins a host of Australian stars now playing England; many of which are at Arsenal.
The defender is also able to play in more attacking positions and will be looking to bomb forward when needed, as shown in her debut appearance against Reading on opening day.
Jess Fishlock (Reading)
Wales international Jess Fishlock signed for Reading from OL Reign on loan. The midfielder is back in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League for the first time in eight years. The two-time UEFA Women’s Champions League winner also has an MBE for her services to football and the LGBT community. No wonder Reading and women’s football fans alike are happy to see her back in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League. Fishlock is one of a host of players from the American National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) to have moved because of doubts of the effect of Covid-19 on the new season but also because of the chance to play football in the English top flight which is getting better each year.
Fishlock brings strong leadership qualities to Reading after stints at Cardiff City and Melbourne City in player-coach roles and this has already been demonstrated in her tenacity during Reading’s defeat to Arsenal. She will be an interesting player to watch alongside The Royals’ other established signings.
Rose Lavelle (Manchester City)
Rose Lavelle was announced to be joining Manchester City at the end of August. Like many American stars, Lavelle has moved to England on a one-year arrangement and will then return back to National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) club OL Reign.
Lavelle was one of the stand-out performers during the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019, being named the third-best player of the tournament. There is no doubt that she will stand-out again in an already star-studded Manchester City line-up which boast class all over the pitch.
Tobin Heath (Manchester United)
The first of Manchester United’s big announcements came last Wednesday, Tobin Heath was rumoured to be departing the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) for the Barclays FA Women’s Super League and she is finally here. Heath has excelled with her national team, being part of the 2015 and 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup-winning squads as well winning two Olympic Gold Medals with the United States. The 32-year-old forward has been at Portland Thorns for seven years and has signed a one-year contract with United.
She will have to wait until 4 October at the earliest to represent her new club. Prior to Heath’s arrival at The Leigh Sports Village, United had been quiet on the transfer front but this big signing cements them as striving for a top three finish this year.
Christen Press (Manchester United)
Two hours after Heath’s announcement, Manchester United announced the singing of United States teammate Christen Press from the Utah Royals also on a one-year contract. Like Heath, Press has excelled with The Stars and Stripes also winning two FIFA Women’s World Cups. She is another significant signing for Manchester United.
Press’ arrival in England created a massive social media buzz along with Heath. Many American fans will definitely jump ship to watch United play this season to see how the pair perform. This will certainly give the Barclays FA Women’s Super League more international attention.
Sam Mewis (Manchester City)
Sam Mewis is yet another signing for Manchester City fans to get excited about. The midfielder joined the club during a busy transfer window and is another National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) import. Mewis left 2019 NWSL Championship winners North Carolina Courage to join City. She made her debut in the FA Women’s Community Shield defeat to Chelsea.
Mewis looks set to take over from long-serving City star Jill Scott who has moved into a player-coaching role. Scott came on for Mewis in the 76th minute against Brighton & Hove Albion which is something that will be expected throughout the season. Mewis has big boots to fill but City have faith that she will sure up the midfield.
Rachel Daly (West Ham United)
Adaptable full-back Rachel Daly is yet another star from the National Women’s Soccer Leagie (NWSL) that has come to England for a year. Daly is on loan at West Ham United from Houston Dash, where she is captain. The defender, who can also operate in attack, adds experience to The Hammers’ squad and if her performances for Dash are anything to go by, she will impress West Ham United fans. She was top scorer in the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup and Daly will be aiming for a similar tally if she is regularly deployed in attack rather than defence by manager Matt Beard.
In my opinion, these signings demonstrate the growth of the Barclays FA Women’s Super League as a brand and as a competition. It also shows the fact that many high quality players are willing to commit to playing their football in England. The level of talent arriving in the league will only increase in the next few windows.
On the other hand, these signings are great for the league as a whole but it does create an even bigger disparity between those teams that can afford these star players and the less fortunate. It should also be considered that many of the American stars have only signed one-year contracts. This means that we cannot enjoy their talents for too long, although I am sure they, like the other signings, will make big impacts in the league during the time that they are here.