We had to rush the publication of our post yesterday because Chelsea Women’s decided to do this on Twitter at 5:30pm Adelaide time:
Chronicle of a foretold signing
Our first reaction was to think that Kerr was definitely on the way, since we saw her with our own eyes play all 90 minutes of the Matildas v Chile game, and at that time at night, there are no cross-continental flights leaving Adelaide. We did not expect that barely an hour later, they would go ahead with the announcement, given that this was obviously prepared ahead of time and not done on the day (or else Kerr’s eye bags would have had even bigger luggage). Why not wait until she was physically there? Why not wait until we had finish writing about the Matildas game the day before? Such rush.
So Sam Kerr has signed for Chelsea on a 2.5 year contract – the worth of the contract has been reported in several media, and it is reportedly close to $2m in total. This is not in any way unexpected. Chelsea have been chasing Kerr for several years, and they have always offered big money. How they are able to provide this type of paycheck is a mystery in a league with a salary cap. Given how it works, Chelsea Women must be making a fortune in specific sponsorship deals, merch and the like, as WSL clubs can only spend 40% of their turnover on salaries. Yes, I am confused too.
So when can we watch Kerr do her thing? Well, as mentioned in our post yesterday, the English women’s transfer window does not open until the 27th December, so she will be unable to join the team on the field until 2020. We assume she would be allowed to train though, so I am sure there will be plenty of social media attention on those, maybe the odd few interviews before she can even kick a ball. That is some expectation to handle for the next six weeks.
Here to lift trophies
Chelsea Women’s manager Emma Hayes is not wrong when showing her appreciation for Kerr choosing Chelsea over other offers, given that ‘she could have gone anywhere else in the world.’ Indeed. At 26, with several golden boots accumulated over the last three years, and basically at the peak of her powers, this is a game changer for the London club. They had an indifferent season last year that saw them lose their spot in the UWCL for this season, they fell behind Arsenal and Manchester City, and whilst they have an amazing set of players, they have way more to prove than perhaps a few years back.
This environment is perfect for Kerr, who herself has a big point to prove. The questions around her have always gravitated towards her aversion to take risks and go to Europe. I doubt any other non-European player has been subject to the same scrutiny. Has anyone batted an eyelid when Rapinoe and co have decided to stay in the States and play there rather than test themselves in a different continent? Just because she is Australian does not immediately mean that in order to prove her worth she needs to ply her trade everywhere. Because, so far, she has excelled in all the leagues she has played, perhaps not with silverware, but definitely with statistical cannon fodder.
And that’s another key point there: winning titles. Kerr is globally recognised as one of the best players in the planet (she is nominated to the Ballon d’Or 2019, and has recently been ranked #3 in the Top 25 Women’s Footballers by specialist magazine Goal.com), but team trophies have eluded her for quite some time. She has won the W-League twice, the latest in 2014 with Perth Glory, and an NWSL Shield. With Australia, she won the AFC Asian Cup in 2010, but there’s been tumbleweeds since. If you put together Kerr’s ambition to amend this record with Chelsea’s need to fix the wrongs of last year, then there could not be a better match. This spells trouble for other clubs in England in 2020.
In Europe but not in Europe
When we discussed Kerr’s hypothetical fit in the top 9 European clubs, we had only one issue with Chelsea: they are not in the UEFA Women’s Champions League. And that is a big minus from the get go. It is obviously not something that would tip the scales in one direction or the other, or that would push Kerr to a different club for the sake of the next six months, but it again generates a degree of expectation that can grow out of hand. If she excels in the WSL, there will still be noise around the fact that she won’t be matching up against the best in Europe. If she starts slow, the questions will be even louder. Being unable to test herself in a competition many would have earmarked her for must be quite frustrating. We will also need to wait and see how her scoring output compares to that of the already established Vivianne Miedema, Ada Hegerberg, Pernille Harder, etc.
Also, you have to love and appreciate a good, cheeky European dig at the fact that Kerr will not be playing in the UWCL this season. The official Instagram account of the UEFA Women’s Champions League made reference to the fact that there is already a Sam Kerr playing in the quarterfinals… it’s not the Aussie superstar, but Glasgow City’s midfielder. Gaun yersel, wee yin!
Perhaps the most bizarre part of the announcement that Kerr was going to Chelsea was the fact that, well, someone else was already wearing number 20 at the club. We’ve had this discussion before, and we kept making up our own conspiracy theories about it. Would she wear a different number? Would she go to a different team (haha)? We genuinely did not expect Jonna Andersson, the #20 incumbent, to be bumped off the number completely. Chelsea acknowledged this in the article they posted about Kerr’s arrival by saying that ‘ Jonna Andersson, who previously had the squad number 20, will now wear shirt number 25.’
A bit rough, isn’t it? They could have done this before the start of the season, keep it quiet, make sure people didn’t really read too much into it. Doing it at this stage just seems a bit unfair on Jonna, who has struggled for game time. I’ll never understand this.
A win for all
Sam Kerr moving to England/Europe is a coup for many more stakeholders than it may seem. Besides the obvious winner in the player herself and the team from an on-field perspective, the asset of Kerr brings a lot more attention to other areas. For starters, she is a prolific merchandise target, and her jersey will definitely sell more than many other player’s. Her presence in the league has already meant an investor in the TV rights in the shape of Optus Sport, who will broadcast all live games in Australia from this weekend. This might bring others broadcasters into the fold, which can only mean more exposure for the league, and definitely more revenue to invert in player development.
Additionally, Kerr played in the US for quite some time, and made a lot of fans there. It would not be unusual for those fans to keep wanting to watch Kerr, which might bring more exposure to the WSL in the States. Similarly, Chelsea might sell a few more Kerr jerseys stateside than they had anticipated. If Chelsea manage to qualify for the UWCL next year (particularly if they do on the back of her scoring prowess), an increase of the popularity of the competition outside of Europe should be on the cards.
And finally, purely from a sporting perspective, I seriously cannot wait to see how Sam Kerr compares, statistically, to (in our humble opinion) the best European striker in Vivianne Miedema. For so long, the discourse has been “what if” and “how good is she really?”, and now we finally have a chance to see Kerr in action in a completely new environment that, we hope, brings a lot of unmissable footballing action. Go well, Sam!