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Chelsea Women face fight for first-choice target to replace Emma Hayes

Lyon women head coach Sonia Bompastor/Chelsea face fight for first-choice target to replace Emma Hayes
Sonia Bompastor has won two French league titles and a French cup and her side are currently top of the French top-flight - Getty Images/Christian Hofer

Chelsea face a fight to secure their first-choice candidate to replace Emma Hayes as manager at the end of the season.

The Women’s Super League leaders have identified Lyon manager Sonia Bompastor as their prime target but Telegraph Sport understands the French champions have not yet agreed to let her leave.

The 43-year-old Frenchwoman’s current contract with Lyon has 16 months left to run and sources close to the record eight-times Women’s Champions League winners have stressed that it will not be easy for Chelsea to persuade Lyon to let her go prior to the end of that deal.

Additionally, a spokesperson for Lyon told Telegraph Sport: “We have no comments to add except that Sonia Bompastor is under contract with the club until 2025.”

American businesswoman Michele Kang, who also owns American women’s side Washington Spirit and English Women’s Championship outfit London City Lionesses, completed her takeover of Lyon earlier in February, and has pledged to invest in the team’s facilities. In the European club game, Lyon see Chelsea as a major rival and may be unwilling to be seen to be strengthening a fellow contender for the Champions League.

Nonetheless, Chelsea’s process to find their preferred coach to replace Hayes has been a long and careful one, and to have ultimately identified Bompastor as their top choice means they will now work extremely hard to try to secure an agreement.

Emma Hayes is leaving Chelsea at the end of the season to become head coach of the United States women's team
Emma Hayes is leaving Chelsea at the end of the season to become head coach of the United States women's team - PA/Bradley Collyer

Former France midfielder Bompastor won the Champions League with Lyon as manager in 2021-22, beating Barcelona in the final in Turin. In doing so, she became the first female manager to lift the women’s European title since Germany’s Martina Voss-Tecklenburg guided Duisburg to glory in Europe in 2009. Bompastor also won the Champions League twice as a player, in 2011 and 2012, both times with Lyon.

As their manager, she has won two French league titles and a French cup. Her side are currently 10 points clear of rivals Paris St-Germain at the top of the French top-flight table.

Replacing Hayes was never going to be easy for Chelsea, who have won six WSL titles since Hayes took charge nearly 12 years ago. The soon-to-be United States head coach has also guided the west London club to five Women’s FA Cups and two League Cups, as well as the final of the 2021 Champions League.

Bompastor and Hayes’s current team could meet in the final of this season’s Champions League in Bilbao on May 25, as they have been drawn into opposite halves of the draw. Chelsea face Ajax in the quarter-finals over two legs in March.

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