Chelsea’s England consider changing guard in Champions League final
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Chelsea striker Beth England believes that beating Barcelona to win the Women’s Champions League on Sunday could “open the door” for English clubs to conquer Europe on a regular basis.
Only one English team, Arsenal in 2007, were crowned European champions in women’s football, but the grip once played by French and German clubs has been loosened by increased investment from the Premier League and La Liga giants.
For the first time since Arsenal’s success 14 years ago, the Champions League winner will not come from France or Germany.
England helped the Blues see German giants Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich reach the final in Gothenburg for the first time.
Paris Saint-Germain ended Lyon’s streak of five successive Champions League titles before clashing with a dominant Barca side in the semi-final.
The Catalans haven’t lost a single point while retaining La Liga, scoring 128 goals in 26 games.
However, England believe that the greater depth of the Women’s Super League (WSL) has slowly but steadily prepared English teams for success now in continental competition.
“It would be a huge success,” England told AFP. “To be the first English team would be incredible, it opens the door.
“We are seeing that our league is getting stronger and stronger with the staff coming into our league. It just shows how much we have grown and how we are improving in this competition.
“I think we are catching up with French and German clubs in this competition, mainly because we put a lot of work into making our league the best league first, and then that potentially came after.”
“There is plenty of room for more English teams to be at the forefront of this competition, but I hope Chelsea, with everything we have done over the years, will be the first to do so . “
– Hayes ‘remarkable’ –
Chelsea are on track for a quadruple trophy history.
Emma Hayes’ side held off Manchester City by two points to retain the WSL last weekend, having already won the League Cup.
Unlike the revolving door of the coaches in charge of the Stamford Bridge men’s squad, the charismatic Hayes has been the rock around which the Chelsea women have grown to be one of the best teams in Europe.
Hayes took charge of what was still an amateur team in 2012, but was heavily supported by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.
In a rare interview with Forbes earlier this year, the Russian billionaire called Hayes’ work “remarkable.”
“She’s been building at this point during her nine years at this club,” England added. “I can appreciate for her, it’s her life’s work to get to this final, just like it’s the players’ job.
“She is very motivated, she knows what she wants. She has made no secret that the Champions League is the main goal of the season.”
England saw both sides of Abramovich‘s investment.
Crowned WSL Player of the Year last season, her playing time this season has been limited by the arrival of star forwards Sam Kerr and Pernille Harder, who broke the world record for transfer fees for a female player when she joined Wolfsburg in September.
But the 26-year-old praised Hayes’ ability to foster team spirit among such a talented group of individuals.
“She will do whatever she can to get what she wants,” England added. “One of the best things I can congratulate her on is the type of players she brings into the squad.
“She’s very good at bringing the kind of characters that this team needs.
“We’re a well-rounded bunch of individuals who collectively make a great team. I think it can be quite difficult to manage, especially with a lot of big names, but she does it really well.”
© 2021 AFP