When Chelsea confirmed the signing of Sam Kerr, one of the best goalscorers in women’s football, around mid-November of last year, the ambitions of the club and manager Emma Hayes were obvious. Since then, Chelsea have continued to add to an already incredible squad.
Ex-Bayern Munich midfielder and Germany international Melanie Leupolz has already shown her quality in a 2-0 win over Manchester City in the Community Shield. Exciting young Liverpool winger Niamh Charles joined Canadian midfield prodigy Jessie Fleming as the Blues’ next signings. A once again healthy Fran Kirby is practically a new signing. And let’s not forget that Chelsea are also home to Bethany England, Ji So-yun, Erin Cuthbert and Guro Reiten. By any reasonable measure Chelsea have done enough to ensure one of the best attacks in women’s football.
BUT CONTENTMENT IS FOR LOSERS SO WELCOME TO CHELSEA, PERNILLE HARDER!!!
From seemingly out of nowhere, reports started popping up a day before the UEFA Women’s Champions League Final that after the final whistle Wolfsburg would be losing their superstar attacker to Chelsea. As this is #SillySeason, the reports were taken with a moon-sized grain of salt by yours truly. But here she is holding up a Chelsea shirt and joining one of the most absurd teams ever assembled.
A handful of forwards can sit cozily in the pantheon of the best in football, and Chelsea are now home to two of them: Sam Kerr and, now, Pernille Harder (Bethany England isn’t far away either). Harder, who was named 2017-18 UEFA Women’s Player of the Year over Ada Hegerberg, has led a dominant Wolfsburg squad who have won the Frauen Bundesliga every year since since she arrived in 2016-17. Last season was her best ever, scoring 27 goals in 20 starts and 1 substitute appearance.
However, with Sunday’s defeat to Lyon, Harder’s Wolfsburg were knocked out of the competition by the French club for the fourth consecutive year, including in two finals. As someone who has gotten so close four years in a row, there’s no doubt that Harder’s desire to win a Champions League title directly aligns with Emma Hayes and Chelsea’s burning desire to do the same.
As for where she’ll fit at Chelsea, well, that’s why Emma Hayes gets paid a lot more than I do. The good news is that Harder is versatile enough to play as a lone striker, in a pair, or as an attacking (albeit ultra-attacking) midfielder. Keeping the squad fresh and hungry instead of unsettled and annoyed will be a bit of a balancing act for Hayes, who may find it hard to consistently name lineups with Bethany England, Sam Kerr and Pernille Harder all in the XI.
Still, Harder is one of the absolute best players in the world and if you have a chance to sign her, you take it. I was already anticipating this team somehow being more fun to watch than last season’s iteration that scored 47 goals in 15 league games before play was suspended due to the pandemic. With Harder, Chelsea are on the edge of turning hyperbole into analysis.
This will be most enjoyable. See you over at the FA Player.