Chelsea Women have continued to show their ambition with the shrewd acquisition of Niamh Charles - and it could prove to be the perfect move for both the club and player.
The Blues have made a selection of headline signings over the course of the last 12 months, landing Norwegian forward Guro Reiten in the summer of 2019, Australian superstar Sam Kerr in January and Bayern Munich captain Melanie Leupolz in March.
Their most recent recruit has come from a bit closer to home, and is more of a rawer talent, but has the potential to be Emma Hayes' smartest signing to date.
Charles joined from recently relegated Liverpool, where she had shone despite the Reds struggles on the pitch. She is everything you want from a winger; tricky, fearless and captivating with the ball at her feet. And most excitingly for Chelsea, she is still just 21 years old.
One of the youngster's most impressive performances of the season came against Everton in November. Despite playing at Anfield for the first time - a potentially daunting experience for anyone, let alone a life long Liverpool supporter - in front of over 23,000 spectators, Charles was unfazed, relentlessly charging at the Everton backline and laying on opportunity after opportunity for her teammates.
Big occasions come along frequently at Chelsea - be it title deciders, FA Cup finals or Champions League showdowns - and Charles has already demonstrated her ability to thrive on the biggest stage of her career thus far.
She was the creative spark in an otherwise largely dire campaign for the Reds, and moving on and remaining in the WSL to further her career was essential.
Charles would not have been short of suitors, but such is her talent she has attracted the attention of the very best in the country - WSL champions Chelsea - and such is her ambition she opted to take them up on their offer regardless of the assortment of stars she will be competing with to land a starting spot.
The Blues are already spoilt with attacking options; Beth England, Kerr, Reiten, Erin Cuthbert, Ji So-yun, Fran Kirby, in the addition to youngsters Jamie-Lee Napier and Emily Murphy. But their determination to hoover up the very best talent in the country suggests that they are building a squad capable of rivalling Lyon on the European stage.
The French champions have won the competition four seasons on the trot, while Chelsea bowed out at the semi-final stage in 2018 and 2019.
Competition for places in the Chelsea starting XI is fierce. Charles could have signed for the majority of sides in the WSL and been guaranteed first team football every week, which will not be the case at Chelsea. She has a fight on her hands just to get onto the pitch.
But Charles knows that it is the place to be.
Emma Hayes gets the very best out of players. It could be in a matter of months, as was the case with Fran Kirby, or it could take a number of years, as demonstrated by Beth England. But either way, Hayes ensures players go above and beyond their potential.
For Chelsea, the signing of Charles represents something a little bit different. When snapping up Kerr and Leupolz, they were purchasing proven, world class internationals. The capture of England Under-21 international Charles is more of a long term investment, a nod to the future.
But more importantly, the move is yet another statement of intent from Chelsea.
The array of world class talent already vying for a spot in their starting XI cannot deter young players from signing. The reputation the club is forging for itself, their intelligent recruitment and the allure of Hayes are already making Chelsea the team to beat come the 2020/21 season.
Source : 90min