WSL deadline day: Which are the deals to look out for ahead of the 2023-24 season?

Catarina Macario
Catarina Macario has joined Women’s Super League winners Chelsea on a three-year deal after her Lyon contract expired

The Women’s Super League summer transfer window closes this Thursday, with time still for significant business to be done.

That is the deadline for England’s 12 top-flight clubs to get their squads in order, ready for the start of the new league season on 1 October.

With the fight for the title, European qualification and survival all more competitive than ever, what is usually a relatively quiet day could bring a flurry of action.

Here’s the pick of the deals we have seen so far this summer – and what to look out for on deadline day…

Which are the biggest and best deals to have happened so far?

Even after winning four WSL titles in a row – and three consecutive domestic trebles – Chelsea have refused to stand still.

Emma Hayes has had to refresh her squad following the departures of key duo Magdalena Eriksson and Pernille Harder to Bayern Munich after their contracts expired.

Their most exciting incoming deal has been Catarina Macario from Lyon. The USA forward missed the Women’s World Cup with a knee ligament injury, but when fully fit is one of the world’s most exciting attacking players. Should Hayes have Macario available for a run of games to partner with Sam Kerr, further domestic dominance and even a long-awaited first Champions League title cannot be ruled out.

For last year’s runners-up Manchester United, it has been more about the players they have lost than the ones acquired. Just a few months after rejecting Arsenal’s world record £500,000 bid for striker Alessia Russo on January’s deadline day, United could only sit and watch the England international move to north London on a free following the expiry of her contract.

Russo’s exit was a blow, but even bigger was the loss to Barcelona on a free of full-back Ona Batlle – their outstanding player last season as they qualified for Europe for the first time.

In response, manager Marc Skinner has recruited World Cup Golden Boot winner Hinata Miyazawa, and Brazilian winger Geyse who also impressed in Australia and New Zealand.

Alessia Russo
Alessia Russo completed her free transfer to Arsenal before playing for England at the 2023 World Cup

As well as Russo, Arsenal have signed a raft of international talent as they aim to be the ones who knock Chelsea off their perch – as well as cover for another injury nightmare.

Spain’s World Cup winner Laia Codina and Swedish set-piece expert Amanda Ilestedt bring both quality to central defence, and necessary replacements for the injured Leah Williamson and departed Rafaelle.

Up front, Canada international Cloe Lacasse brings Champions League experience to pair with Russo’s quality, and ensures Jonas Eidevall’s side will not be as short-handed as they were last season when both Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema suffered anterior cruciate knee ligament injuries.

While quantity has been the message at Arsenal, Manchester City are banking on quality to get them back into the top three, having missed out on Champions League qualification for this season.

Having been granted a one-year contract extension despite that disappointment, manager Gareth Taylor has spent a club record £300,000 on Netherlands midfielder Jill Roord, who reached the Champions League final last season with Wolfsburg.

Elsewhere, Aston Villa look to have recruited smartly as they aim to be the ones who crack the established top four following a best-ever WSL campaign last season.

Daphne van Domselaar of the Netherlands – one of the World Cup’s outstanding keepers – arrives to replace Chelsea-bound Hannah Hampton, while the re-signing of striker Ebony Salmon from Houston Dash and the acquisition of Adriana Leon from Manchester Unitedmeans they should not be so reliant on Rachel Daly repeating her heroics of 2022-23.

Of the sides who fought relegation last season, Brighton have been the busiest under manager Melissa Phillips, who arrived from London City Lionesses to steer them away from the drop in the final games. Former Champions League winning midfielder Vicky Losada is an eye-catching arrival.

Which business could still happen on deadline day?

The biggest question in English women’s football currently is where Mary Earps will be come Friday morning.

England’s penalty saving heroine and goalkeeper kit crusader, Earps is the latest player heavily linked with a move away from Manchester United. She has been tipped to join Lionesses team-mate Russo at Arsenal – although their shock elimination by Paris FC in Champions League qualification could scupper that.

United rejected a “significant offer” from an unnamed club for the 30-year-old late in August, but her contract expires next summer. Whether she will extend it is a question that has remained unanswered for months.

Ada Hegerberg
Former Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg is entering the final year of her contract at Lyon

Elsewhere, some clubs in the lower half of last season’s WSL face questions over whether they have recruited enough.

West Ham, who replaced Paul Konchesky as manager with former Tottenham boss Rehanne Skinner this summer, have brought in goalkeeper Megan Walsh from Brighton as well as strikers Emma Harries from Reading and Riko Ueki from Japanese side Tokyo Verdy.

But, the Hammers have lost key defenders Lucy Parker to Aston Villa and Grace Fisk to Liverpool, while their league record appearance maker Kate Longhurst has departed to second-tier Charlton Athletic. One comfort for Skinner is that midfielder Mel Filis, who was heavily linked with an exit, has not left West Ham yet.

Newly promoted Bristol City also look a little light. Their major signings have been Wales midfielder Carrie Jones from Manchester United and keeper Kaylan Marckese on loan from Arsenal.

Spurs, having fallen close to the trapdoor last season after a dire losing run that led to Skinner’s sacking, may look to sign a striker after key forward Bethany England had hip surgery, ruling her out for the start of the season.

Elsewhere, Manchester City could look to add to Roord in their summer dealings. They have long been linked with a move for Everton defender Gabby George.

Brighton will hope to keep hold of defender Poppy Pattinson, who has had an offer from the National Women’s Soccer League in the US, while they are also looking at goalkeeping options. Sophie Baggaley from Manchester United and Chelsea’s Nicky Evrard could be available.

Liverpool, meanwhile, are set to lose striker Katie Stengel, their top scorer last season, on a permanent deal to NWSL side NJ/NY Gotham FC.

One potential firework, in the mould of Russo in January, could come from former Ballon D’Or winner Ada Hegerberg.

The Lyon forward has just one year left on her contract, and while Champions League holders Barcelona have been favourites for her signature, any of the WSL top four sides could readily be considered title favourites should they recruit the Norwegian.

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