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Emma Hayes to leave Chelsea at end of the season

Chelsea boss Emma Hayes will depart the Blues at the end of the season for a position “outside club football” after more than a decade in charge, the Women’s Super League club have announced.

Hayes is among the most respected and successful managers in women’s football, having led Chelsea to six WSL titles, five FA Cups, two League Cups, one Spring Series trophy and one Community Shield.

The 47-year-old, who steered Chelsea to an historic double on two occasions and achieved one domestic treble, has previously been linked to the vacant United States women’s national team role currently occupied by interim boss Twila Kilgore.

A club statement read: “Chelsea FC can today confirm that highly decorated Chelsea Women’s manager Emma Hayes OBE will depart the club at the end of the season to pursue a new opportunity outside of the WSL and club football.”

Hayes joined Chelsea in 2012, six years before the WSL became fully professional, and has transformed her side, who are currently in the process of defending their fourth consecutive title.

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The native Londoner is such a Stamford Bridge stalwart that she has now seen 12 different men’s managers pass through the doors – Frank Lampard twice – during her tenure.

Hayes is a six-time WSL manager of the season, and in 2021 was named FIFA’s best women’s manager of the year. In recent years she has also moved into commentary and punditry, and picked up several awards for her work covering the men’s Euros for ITV in 2020.

Chelsea co-sporting directors Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley said: “Emma has been one of the biggest drivers of change in women’s football. Her achievements at Chelsea are unrivalled and will live in the club’s history forever.

“Given everything she has contributed to Chelsea in over a decade with the club, and the legacy she leaves behind, we would never stand in her way when she felt it was the right time to pursue a new challenge.

“We are pleased that she will remain with the club for the remainder of the season to give us the time to identify her successor.

“There will be plenty of time to celebrate Emma’s many achievements at the club and to give her the farewell she deserves, but for now, as she always has been, Emma will be solely focused on making this season as successful as possible for Chelsea.”

Chelsea chairman Todd Boehly and co-controlling owner Behdad Eghbali added: “Emma’s contribution to Chelsea cannot be understated.

“She has been a pioneer in women’s football and is hugely respected within the game. We look forward to continuing to work together over the coming months.”

Ex-England international Fara Williams looked shocked when she heard the news for the first time live on a BBC broadcast.

She said: “She’s been given so much time. They’ve had patience in the early seasons with Emma and she’s built a phenomenal team, a squad at Chelsea now that compete on all levels. The question is who are they going to get to replace her, and it’s such a difficult job to replace her at Chelsea.

“It will be sad that she’s going and leaving Chelsea and leaving the WSL and for me, what’s next for her?”

Hayes has regularly been mentioned as one of the bosses in the women’s football who could move into management of a men’s side, but has on numerous occasions stated that holding a top job in the women’s game should never be seen as inferior or as a stepping stone into men’s football.

Hayes has enjoyed a trophy-laden spell at Chelsea
Hayes has enjoyed a trophy-laden spell at Chelsea (Nigel French/PA)

She is one of several managers who have been touted as a potential permanent successor for the US job, vacated by Vlatko Andonovski after the Americans were eliminated from this summer’s Women’s World Cup in the last 16 for a worst-ever finish.

Australia women’s head coach Tony Gustavsson and OL Reign boss Laura Harvey, a Nuneaton native, have also been linked to the job, with the US having already qualified for next summer’s Olympics in Paris.

Speaking in Sydney in August ahead of England’s World Cup final the day after Andonovski ‘s departure was announced, Hayes said: “I suspected that question would come up.

“I’m very happy at Chelsea, I’ve made that clear.

“I’ve been there for 11 years, it’s my home. I think the US has wonderful players and perhaps the tournament didn’t go the way they wanted but my focus is on getting home and preparing the team for the start of the season.”