“Alessia Russo joins Arsenal Women on free transfer after being released by Manchester United: England striker strengthens the squad”
Arsenal had two bids for Alessia Russo rejected in January but have now signed her on a free transfer after her Manchester United contract expired; the 24-year-old scored 10 goals in the WSL last season; Russo on Arsenal move: “I want to win trophies – as does everyone in this club”
Image: Arsenal have signed Alessia Russo on a free transfer after her Manchester United contract expired
Arsenal have confirmed the free signing of England striker Alessia Russo following her release from Manchester United.
Arsenal had two bids for the 24-year-old rejected in January – including a world-record fee – but have now secured her services on a free transfer following the expiration of her United contract.
Russo hit 10 goals in the WSL last season as Marc Skinner’s side finished runners-up to champions Chelsea.
Russo did not sign a new United deal and was instead free to leave Manchester for north London – where she is keen to add domestic medals to the Women’s Euro success she enjoyed with the Lionesses last summer after scoring four goals in the tournament.
“I’m really excited to be here and I can’t wait to get going,” Russo said after joining Arsenal, where she will wear the No 23 shirt.
“I want to win trophies – as does everyone in this club. I can’t wait to get stuck in and grow as a player – it’s a new challenge and a new environment.
“I think the growth of the women’s game has been incredible, but particularly at a club like Arsenal.
“The sell-out against Wolfsburg at Emirates Stadium last season was fantastic and I’m just really excited to be part of this club.”
Russo, who is part of the England squad heading to the World Cup which begins later this month in Australia and New Zealand, has hit 11 goals in 21 senior appearances for her country.
“Alessia is one of the best forwards in the world and has significant potential to continue growing and improving,” said Arsenal head coach Jonas Eidevall.
“She has a proven track record of scoring goals in the WSL and at international level and we believe she will be a quality addition to our forward line, so we’re all delighted to have brought her to the club.”
United confirmed last month that Russo was among several players to have left the club following the expiry of their contracts.
Right-back Ona Batlle joined Tara Bourne, Jade Moore, Estelle Cascarino and Aissatou Tounkara in departing the club after failing to agree new deals.
Sky Sports News understands United and Russo were discussing terms over a new deal for the last 18 months but United only reached the forward’s contract expectations on the last week of the season, at which point it was too late to entice her to stay.
A number of clubs around the world, including in the USA, France, Spain and the UK, wanted to sign Russo this summer but Arsenal won the race after their interest earlier this year.
Arsenal’s head of women’s football, Clare Wheatley, said: “We’re delighted to have signed Alessia and I’m sure our supporters will be excited by this news.
“Alessia is a very talented footballer who fits the profile of player we want to bring to this club.
“We believe she has a high ceiling for further development and we are confident that we can go to the next level together.”
Scott: Important Russo’s future sorted before WWC
Former England international Jill Scott told Sky Sports News:
“Alessia is a fantastic player. Man Utd will miss her, we know she’s a goalscoring machine. Arsenal will be very happy they have another good goalscorer on their books. It’s a good move for her and her family are down south as well.
“I saw in January, Alessia Russo was ahead of all the men’s transfers and it’s a big moment in women’s football and I wish her the best of luck.
“I remember when we used to do the small-sided games and she’d get the ball, step you right and then put it in the bottom corner every single time. That change of pace that she’s got, defenders are terrified of that. The scary thing is she’s only going to get better.
Image: Russo has hit 11 goals in 21 senior appearances for England
“I do think it’s important [to have the move completed before the World Cup]. You don’t want anything hanging over you, especially when you’re going off to a tournament. You need to sort out anything that’s going to drain any energy from you.
“She’ll be happy to have it sorted. She can go away with the Lionesses and not have to think about Arsenal or Man Utd until she gets back.”
‘Arsenal complete impressive transfer coup’
Sky Sports’ Charlotte Marsh:
“Russo’s move to Arsenal is quite extraordinary for many reasons.
“Firstly, there was the world-record bid the Gunners submitted in January, which was rejected by Manchester United. They had been hopeful that their star striker would sign a new deal – but unfortunately, it never materialised.
“At the time, it was a risk worth taking. They were top of the WSL and competing in the FA Cup with all hands needed on deck to help the club win those trophies. A move to a close rival at that time would have seemed, frankly, ridiculous with contract talks ongoing.
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing though as United now find themselves with no trophies and no transfer fee for their star striker. With the demands of Champions League football added to an already busy domestic season, their recruitment team must now kick into overdrive to find a replacement.
“From Arsenal’s perspective, this is an incredible success. They have landed their No 1 target without having to pay a fee, although already showed their determination with that January bid. Russo is one of the WSL’s most recognisable faces, a proven goalscorer and a proven winner.
“Eidevall admitted his squad were a few players short after the winter window, especially in attacking areas with long-term injuries to Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead. However, the Gunners still had a successful season, beating Chelsea in the Conti Cup final to win their first silverware under Eidevall.
“But with the arrival of Russo, Arsenal will be hoping she can take them to another level and break Chelsea’s stranglehold on the WSL title. The Gunners were the last team to win it before Emma Hayes’ outfit’s run of four consecutive trophies.
“Once Mead and Miedema return, Arsenal will have one of the most lethal attacking lines in the WSL, and possibly even women’s football. For now though, their signing of Russo is one of the most impressive transfer coups we have seen and ticks off a big ‘must have’ for the Gunners heading into the new season.”
‘Success at Arsenal can cement Russo as one of the world’s best No 9s’
Image: Russo departs United after three years at the club
Sky Sports News reporter Anton Toloui:
“Sarina Wiegman’s message to her England’s players was clear: ‘please get club matters sorted before flying to the World Cup’.
“Russo has done just that, meaning she’ll get the chance to prove on the biggest stage of all why she’s now one of the best-paid players in WSL.
“Arsenal had to be patient to get their top target but in a way, they’ll be pleased they didn’t spend a world-record £500,000 on Russo in January.
“Arsenal claimed Champions League football without her and now have more money in the bank to spend elsewhere as they look to end Chelsea’s domestic dominance.
“As for Russo, she turned down moves to some of the biggest clubs in Europe and the USA to move to north London.
“Winning championships for club and country will help establish her as one of the best No 9s in the game.
“Having fellow forwards Miedema, Mead, Caitlin Foord, Stina Blackstenius and Katie McCabe alongside her certainly can’t help her quest for greatness.”