A world-record bid for England international Alessia Russo on transfer deadline day and a frantic search for forwards capped a remarkable end to a momentous Women’s Super League window.
It was a January window like no other in the WSL as club spending hit a new high, records were broken and players made headlines.
Here’s why it changed the landscape of the women’s football market.
When will a player move for £1million?
Arsenal made two world record bids for England striker Russo – the second estimated at just under £500,000 – before Manchester United told them she was not for sale at any price.
They arrived in the final 24 hours of the transfer window, and had this deal gone through it would have beaten the £400,000 paid by Barcelona. for England midfielder Keira Walsh in September.
These numbers were unknown a year ago and are a sign of intent that WSL clubs are willing to spend money on top players.
This attracted media attention, with Russo’s transfer saga making headlines alongside deadline signings from the Premier League.
It was important not just for the fee, but because it was another example of rival clubs trying to rock the boat, coming just a week after Chelsea already done a £250,000 bid, which was turned down by Arsenal, for winger Katie McCabe.
In either case, Arsenal and Manchester United were unwilling to sell players to a direct rival despite the obvious financial incentives.
These colossal sums were not isolated. Several clubs were willing to pay a fee in January, Tottenham would have been signature of Bethany England for a British record fee, Aston Villa spent £30,000 on the England international Jordan Nobs of Arsenal, and Manchester United’s fee for Lisa Naalsund was estimated at over £100,000.
The loan market also has costs
Another new development in the WSL transfer window is the introduction of fee requests for loan signings.
Manchester United midfielder Jade Moore was an example of this when she attracted strong interest from Tottenham, before agreeing a loan move to former club Reading at a cost.
United are believed to be one of a number of clubs who have started asking for a fee to loan out senior players, while it is understood that a request from Arsenal to hijack the winger’s season-long loan from Manchester City’s Jess Park at Everton reportedly cost them £100,000.
This new strategy was controversial among clubs during the window, with some players keen on regular playing time being denied loan moves due to interested parties’ reluctance to pay.
The loan market also produced some attractive offers as Aston Villa Olivia McLoughlin sealed a temporary move to local rivals Birmingham City on transfer deadline day, Tottenham snapped up the in-demand midfielder from Arsenal Mana Iwabuchi of their north London rivals and Liverpool brought in the striker from Reading Natasha Dowie January 31 – a team is fighting with them to avoid relegation.
In-depth review of contract renewals
January also showed how often players are now leaving clubs despite time remaining on their contracts.
In the past, WSL players were often on short-term contracts and moves usually happened when those ended naturally.
As well as Arsenal’s pursuit of Russo, whose current deal with United expires this summer, there have been moves for Manchester United. Lucy Staniforth to Aston Villa after the mutual termination of his contract and England’s switch to Tottenham from Chelsea despite having one year remaining on his contract with the Blues.
The length of contracts has also been discussed at an unprecedented level, with clubs being asked about new deal negotiations.
Russo’s rejection of a contract renewal with United was widely reported, while question marks over the future of teammates Mary Earps and Ona Batlle were highly publicized.
Aston Villa’s Sarah Mayling, Chelsea’s Melanie Leupolz, Manchester United’s Millie Turner and Tottenham’s Ria Percival were among the biggest contract renewals announced in January.