Emma Hayes has vowed to leave her role as Chelsea Women’s boss “on top” and is ready for one last crack at the one major trophy that eludes her – the Champions League.
The Blues travel to Real Madrid on Wednesday to begin their latest bid to conquer Europe for the first time.
However, Chelsea are still coming to terms with the news that Hayes will leave at the end of the season, reportedly to take up a lucrative role as head of the US women’s national team.
In his 11 years in charge, Hayes made Chelsea a dominant force in the English game.
The 47-year-old’s reputation as an inspirational leader and shrewd tactician looks set to land her arguably the biggest job in women’s football as coach of the four-time world champions.
Hayes will reportedly be paid a record $1.6 million salary to match with U.S. men’s coach Greg Burhalter as part of an equal pay deal.
She has described the decision to part ways with Chelsea as “leaving her family”, but has made it in part due to family demands.
Her five-year-old son is reportedly not a fan of football because of the season that forces his mom to be away.
Despite the intensity of the spotlight in international football, it does not carry the same demands as the rigors of day-to-day club management.
“My little boy has been great about allowing me to do this work, but it’s important to him,” Hayes said.
“That’s not a selfish decision, it’s a selfless decision. It’s about putting other things first in my life and I’m ready for that.”
Before that, Hayes is focused on shining a light on her legacy in west London.
Six league titles, five FA Cups and two League Cups are likely to be added between now and her departure in May.
But the hurdle to become the second English team ever to win the Women’s Champions League, and the first since Arsenal’s success in 2007, has so far proved too high for Chelsea to overcome.
Twice in the last three seasons it was an all-powerful Barcelona that stood in the way.
The 2021 final saw the Catalans win 4-0, but last season’s semi-final between the pair was much closer as Barca advanced 2-1 on aggregate before lifting the trophy for a second time.
Chelsea hope to start and end their European season in Spain, with Bilbao hosting the final on May 25.
A tough group also includes Paris FC, who knocked out two of last season’s semi-finalists, Arsenal and Wolfsburg in the qualifiers, and Swedish side BK Hacken.
But anything short of progress in the latter stages will be a huge disappointment for Chelsea and a wet squip to end Hayes’ reign of glory.
“I’ve taken this team to the top and I’ve always said I wanted to leave at the top and I maintain that,” he said.
“I think I’ve given as much as I can to this football club. I’ve loved every minute of it.”
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