The Women’s Super League (WSL) transfer window might have only officially opened on Friday but already there have been some big moves in and out of the league.
Such is the nature of women’s football, massive sums of money aren’t always on the table with many players taking short-term contracts with clubs and then moving on when their deal ends. However, the money involved in transfers is trending upward.
In 2020, spending on women’s football transfers surpassed $1 million for the first time ever and rose to $2.1m in 2021. FIFA revealed in February that only 21 of the 257 moves made during the January transfer window involved a fee but that spending on those few was up 57.3% from the previous year.
The WSL were the biggest spenders in the 2022 January window with their transfer business totaling $254,200 on 20 transfers. Meanwhile, Spanish clubs spent $105,000 on 46 international transfers.
So, with the summer transfer window here and some big players looking for new adventures, here are the best transfers that have already happened in the WSL and what to look out for over the next few months.
Lucy Bronze, RB, Man City to Barcelona
With Bronze’s contract up this summer, there had been a lot of speculation about whether she would stay at City or move on. It became apparent early on that her time with City was numbered, but there wasn’t even a hint that Barcelona would be where she ended up. It is rare in women’s football for a transfer to happen without a single whisper of the end destination, but that was exactly the case here. For most of the time it seemed like she was headed to the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in the U.S.
After losing the Champions League final 3-1 in spectacular fashion to Lyon, it has already become apparent that Barca are planning their revenge, and they have made a statement by signing the England international right-back. While injury has hampered her last season, she is still an incredibly formidable defender and has the experience of winning the Champions League three times with Lyon. While Barca only conceded 23 goals last season, Bronze will bring a new level of success and experience to the side.
Kadeisha Buchanan, CB, Lyon to Chelsea
The Canada international was one of the most exciting prospects on clubs’ transfer radars this summer. With her contract with Lyon coming to an end, the Champions League winners were eager to keep her, but she was looking for a new challenge. After the deal, her agents described her on social media as someone always looking for a challenge and not afraid to step outside her comfort zone.
On the pitch, Chelsea are getting a 26-year-old defender at the peak of her career who could have gone to any club across Europe if she wanted. When she first exited the U.S. college system, a lot of her game was based off how dominant and physical she was on the ball, but her time in France has brought a new technical element to her game, which has helped make her one of the best central defenders in the world.
Deyna Castellanos, FW, Atletico Madrid to Man City
Manchester City fans would have been within their rights to feel a little worried toward the end of the season as it became apparent that some of their biggest names would be moving on — Bronze, Karen Bardsley, Jill Scott, Georgia Stanway and Caroline Weir among them — but the club have already been incredibly active in the transfer window with Castellanos the first big name they brought in.
Having spent just two seasons in Spain, the forward made 71 appearances and scored 26 goals. Internationally, she captains Venezuela — at just 23 — and has 12 goals from 25 games. In 2017, she was shortlisted for FIFA’s Best Women’s Player of the Year beside global stars Lieke Martens and Carli Lloyd.
Despite City’s exodus, she will have competition in the squad as to where she will play, with striker and winger her preferred positions. Ellen White, Chloe Kelly and Lauren Hemp are all regular City starters, but Castellanos could give them a run for their money or play deeper in midfield where she impressed during college.
Lisa Evans, RB, Arsenal to West Ham
After spending last season on loan at West Ham and with her contract expiring this summer, there were few who thought Evans would be returning to the north London club. She joined Arsenal in 2017 from Bayern Munich and was a firm fans’ favourite. Starting out as a right winger, she moved to right-back when Alex Scott retired and was known for scampering up the wing into forward positions.
After falling down the pecking order at Arsenal, though, she went out on loan, and it was a smart piece of business by West Ham to secure her on a more permanent basis. While injuries held her back, she did still make 16 appearances and secured one goal and three assists. As West Ham look to put more pressure on the top-five teams, she is exactly the sort of experienced player who will benefit them.
Laia Aleixandri, CB/RB, Atletico Madrid to Man City
The Spanish takeover at City continued with Aleixandri who was undoubtedly brought in to bolster Gareth Taylor’s defensive options after losing Bronze. The 21-year-old can play at either centre-half or right-back and has the advantage of joining with Castellanos with whom she played at Atletico Madrid.
In 2020, Aleixandri was named by UEFA as one of the most promising young players in Europe, and it will be interesting to see how City use her in the next stage of her career. She will have plenty of experience around her at City to help her develop her obvious talent, but it will also be interesting to see how she makes her mark with a serious redevelopment of the squad underway. There will be plenty of room to cement a spot in the starting XI.
Eve Perisset, CM, Bordeaux to Chelsea
After the turbulence and uncertainty of the Chelsea takeover, Perisset was the first player the club brought in and while she isn’t necessarily a household name, she is the sort of reliable player that Chelsea will benefit from next season. One of the top defenders in Division 1 Feminine, she has also long been an important cog in the France national side.
Following the departure of Jonna Andersson, manager Emma Hayes needed to add some more experience to her defence. Perisset is fast, and her vision and decision-making should make her fit the Chelsea mould quite well. While Chelsea’s midfield is probably one of the strongest in the league, Perisset also offers another option there as she is happier to play higher up the pitch. With Champions League glory firmly in Chelsea’s sights after the disappointment of their early departure this season, Hayes will be hoping that Perisset’s experience will give them an edge.
Georgia Stanway, FW, Man City to Bayern Munich
For fans of the WSL, losing Stanway from the league is a disappointment — though for opposition defenders it may be a relief not to come up against her. She joined City at just 16 and has made 186 appearances for the club across all competitions, becoming their record women’s scorer with 67 goals.
More than her striking prowess, though, was her versatility. Known as a player who could plug missing holes in the team if needed, there was even a point during City’s injury crisis this season when she had been prepped to start as a goalkeeper. Mostly an attacking midfielder, she has has played at centre-forward and her teammates called her the “unsung hero” of the team for her selfless play. The WSL will miss her marauding runs.
Still to come?
Despite the feeling that many of the exciting transfers have already happened, there are plenty of players whose futures remain up in the air. Puskas nominee and one of the best midfielders in the league, Caroline Weir, has announced she is leaving City, which is another massive blow for the WSL to lose a player of her quality. Reports have linked her with a move to Real Madrid, but her final destination has yet to be decided.
Elsewhere, Brighton have shown an interest in striker Veatriki Sarri, who struggled to show her skill as Birmingham lost the fight against relegation. BBC reporter Emma Sanders has also said that City’s Jess Park could be heading on loan to Everton in a deal that would see goalkeeper Sandy MacIver go the other way. Park has struggled for game time at City, and a move to build up minutes would likely suit both her and the club.
After four years with Manchester United, Martha Harris will leave at the end of her contract, too, with newly promoted Liverpool and Leicester City both reported to be in the race for the full-back.
It will be interesting to see what Liverpool do on their return to the WSL. Matt Beard has been smart about how he has built his team and is well accustomed to WSL life (after spells as Chelsea, West Ham and Bristol City) but will likely look to bring in some more experience as his side prepares to make the leap from the Championship.