Women’s Super League 2021/22 transfer window: 10 moves that could happen and what each club needs
Last summer’s Women’s Super League transfer window witnessed plenty of jaw-dropping moments.
There was the influx of American stars including Alex Morgan, Pernille Harder’s world-record move to Chelsea and then the return to these shores of England’s Lucy Bronze and Alex Greenwood from Lyon to strengthen Manchester City’s title-chasing squad.
With the transfer window opening tomorrow, more fireworks are expected. Several teams’ budgets are set to rise as the league’s new broadcast deal with the BBC and Sky Sports kicks in.
But who could be involved in the biggest moves of the summer? Here are just some of the storylines to follow.
Tobin Heath and Christen Press
Among last year’s highest-profile arrivals were two-time World Cup-winning United States duo Tobin Heath and Christen Press, who both spent one season with Manchester United.
However, their NWSL rights were retained by American clubs Portland Thorns and Utah Royals respectively, and they are now both widely expected to return to the other side of the Atlantic.
With a combined 93 goals, 79 assists and 313 senior international caps between them, their exits would be sorely felt by United – who also lost manager Casey Stoney at the end of the season – next term. Conversely, if the English side were to pull off a shock and extend either of their stays, it would go down as one of the key signings of this window.
The 24-year-old has been repeatedly linked with a move to French giants Lyon, who are understood to be very interested in her, but discussions between the clubs are believed to still only be at a relatively early stage.
Miedema is not actively seeking a transfer this summer, but at the same time, nor is she on the verge of signing a new deal, so Arsenal may not want to risk losing her on a free next summer.
If the north Londoners do decide to try and cash in, then expect something of a feeding frenzy.
The former Everton and Manchester City forward has been with Lyon since 2019 and talks have reportedly taken place between Arsenal and the French club over a possible swap deal for Parris and Miedema.
However, at least one other WSL club are also interested in Parris, and should Manchester United lose Heath and Press as expected, the Merseyside-born England forward is said to be a potential target for United, who would be in urgent need of forwards.
Another England international poised to move back to these shores this summer is Atletico Madrid’s Toni Duggan, who has spent the last four years in Spain since swapping Manchester City for Barcelona in 2017.
Multiple clubs are said to be keen on the 29-year-old, with Everton and Manchester United likely to be the strongest contenders to land her signature.
Rumours of her impending departure have been rife since her name was accidentally listed on Chelsea’s official website as an option for fans to print on the back of the new home kit. The club had meant to include her brother Reece’s name instead.
Lyon are also understood to be enquiring about James. The French club see the 19-year-old as a potential replacement for France’s Eugenie Le Sommer, who has moved on loan to OL Reign after 11 years with Lyon.
England and Team GB goalkeeper Karen Bardsley is currently on loan with NWSL club OL Reign until the end of October when the domestic season finishes. The 36-year-old headed for the States seeking more match time following Ellie Roebuck’s rise to become the outright, regular No 1 at Manchester City.
After the Olympics, however, if Bardsley was to decide she wanted another season in England, an array of WSL teams would see her as an upgrade on their existing shot-stoppers, and/or as a mentor for their younger keepers.
Bardsley, who has been to six major international tournaments with the Lionesses, still wants to be a No 1, and won’t be short of suitors for a short-term deal.
Among a list of eight senior players who West Ham United have confirmed will be leaving East London is France winger Kenza Dali.
Arsenal have been repeatedly linked with the 29-year-old, but Everton are also rumoured to be interested in Dali, who scored three goals and provided three assists in 18 WSL appearances for West Ham this term.
Another contender to leave Manchester United is versatile forward Jess Sigsworth, who has been at the club since they reformed their senior women’s side in 2018 and helped them win promotion to the WSL – but found herself on the bench more often that not last season.
The former Doncaster Rovers Belles striker is understood to be a potential target for newly-promoted Leicester City, among other top-flight clubs.
England youth international winger Rinsola Babajide is said to have held talks with Brighton over a possible move to the WSL club from Championship side Liverpool, where she has played since 2018.
The Merseyside outfit are undergoing a rebuild following the re-appointment of Matt Beard as their manager, but 22-year-old Babajide was already unsettled at the club several months prior to Beard’s return and was close to a move in January.
An extensive free transfer market
Despite the recent professionalism of elite women’s football, a significant proportion of WSL players are only on short-term, one-year deals, and therefore the majority of moves this summer will involve free transfers for out-of-contract players.
Last month, Tottenham announced the departures of 11 of their squad, including four-time WSL title-winning winger Gemma Davison.
Not dissimilarly, Aston Villa are saying farewell to at least seven players, while Birmingham City are said to only have three senior players currently contracted for next season and they are very likely to rely on the free market again this summer.
And what’s already happened?
Arguably one of the most impressive acquisitions of the summer has already been confirmed, after Arsenal agreed to sign Japan’s Mana Iwabuchi following the end of her deal with Aston Villa, in a move first revealed by Telegraph Sport.
A 2011 World Cup winner, skilful Iwabuchi will essentially replace Holland’s Jill Roord, who has been snapped up by German side Wolfsburg.
Chelsea have agreed to sign PSV defender Aniek Nouwen, while West Ham have added Australia’s Tameka Yallop from Brisbane Roar
Who else needs what?
Manchester City will undoubtedly be looking to bolster their midfield ranks, after US midfielders Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle both returned to America after just one season in the WSL.Reading are also in need of a central midfielder, following the retirement of England’s most-capped player, Fara Williams.
Champions Chelsea are poised to add strength in depth to their defence, while Everton manager Willie Kirk revealed after their final game of the season that they could bring in as many as seven new names. Reports in Scandinavia have linked Everton with a move for 18-year-old Sweden prodigy Hanna Bennison, who could move to England from Rosengard.