Chelsea have beaten a host of top European clubs to the signing of the Australia striker Sam Kerr on a two-and-a-half year deal.
After Kerr announced she would not be returning to Perth Glory in Australia’s W-League, having finished the NWSL season with Chicago Red Stars, European teams, including the Champions League holders Lyon, Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona, were linked with the record-breaking forward.
“The WSL is the best league in Europe,” said Kerr. “I want team success and I don’t want it to come easy. I feel Chelsea have been building something special over the years and I want to be a part of that – I want to lift some trophies.”
The recruitment of the 26-year-old is a coup for Emma Hayes and Chelsea. Kerr has won five consecutive golden boots across the NWSL and W-League, is the all-time top scorer in both leagues with 69 and 70 goals respectively, holds the records for the most goals in a single season of both leagues, the most goals in a single NWSL match and quickest W-League hat-trick.
A move to Europe has often been mooted and was delayed a season by Football Federation Australia announcing Kerr as the first female marquee player before the 2018-19 season and the World Cup. Players benefiting from marquee status had previously only been from the men’s A-League.
Chelsea missed out on this season’s Champions League but they are top of Women’s Super League and for Kerr the prospect of playing in it next season will be attractive. It would give her the chance to go toe to toe with players such as Lyon’s Ada Hegerberg, the Ballon d’Or winner and Champions League all-time top scorer, in addition to measuring herself on a weekly basis against the best WSL strikers, including Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema.
Hayes added of her new signing: “Sam has proved time and time again in the NWSL that she is a prolific goalscorer. She’s won the golden boot many times and she’s a player that can make things happen, but she’s also a fantastic team player.
“The fact she chose Chelsea when she could have gone to any club in the world is a testament to the players and the staff here because she saw this is the best place for her to grow and take the next step in her career. That’s a wonderful compliment to us all.”
Kerr scored five goals at this year’s World Cup, including four against Jamaica, before she was one of two Australians to miss penalties in their last-16 shootout defeat by Norway.
A straight-talking player, she said after the team came from behind to beat Brazil 3-2 in their second group game: “We don’t listen to the haters” and told them to “suck on that one”.
At Chelsea Kerr joins an already formidable forward line that includes Scotland’s Erin Cuthbert, the Lionesses’ Beth England and Fran Kirby and the Switzerland striker Ramona Bachmann. Jonna Andersson, who previously had the squad number 20, will now wear shirt number 25.
She recently helped the Red Stars to second place in the NWSL table and scored the only goal in their defeat of Portland Thorns to reach the Championship play-off final, which they lost to North Carolina Courage 4-0.