For nine years, Emma Hayes has been working hard to make Chelsea Women the powerhouse of women’s football both domestically and in Europe.
She has made a number of world class signings during that time, including German goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger. But, French side Olympique Lyonnais Feminin have dominated across the board winning the league 14 times in-a-row, as well as winning the last five Champions League crowns.
But Hayes’ record summer signing of Pernille Harder from Wolfsburg and the free acquisition of Australian striker Sam Kerr made it known to all that Chelsea meant business.
Chelsea currently sit second in the Women’s Super League and have now reached the Champions League final, beating Bayern Munich 5-3 on aggregate.
Lyon, on the other hand, have had a troubled season. Their dominance in France is on the verge of ending and although they currently sit top of the league, closest challengers PSG have played a game less.
The French side were also knocked out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage by PSG, the earliest they had exited the competition since they were also knocked out by the same side at the round-of-16 stage in 2014/15.
This has cleared the way for Chelsea and Hayes to push their way into being one of Europe’s elites, with only Barcelona left standing in their way of reaching the top.
The form of English star Fran Kirby, who is the tournament’s top scorer, has guided Chelsea through the stages, but the work Hayes has done since her arrival to get them to this stage cannot be underestimated.
When Hayes took over, Chelsea had just finished sixth out of eight teams, and in her first season, they dropped another place to seventh. But, since that season in 2013, they have not looked back achieving Champions League qualification in five of their last six seasons in the top flight.
They have been crowned champions three times under her stewardship, but before this season, they had never made it past the semi-finals of the Champions League, losing out at that stage in consecutive seasons to Wolfsburg and Lyon.
— Chelsea FC Women (@ChelseaFCW) June 5, 2020
Going into the Champions League final against Barcelona, in Gothenburg, Chelsea became the first English team to reach the final in fourteen years. The last side to achieve this feat was Arsenal, who won the competition in 2006-07.
And while they will be feeling the pressure of the final, the journey that they and Emma Hayes have been on since 2012 shows that with drive and determination, it is possible to reach the very top and break new ground along the way.
Hayes has dug in since the day she arrived at Kingsmeadow, with the aim always being to make Chelsea Women the powerhouse of Europe.