Well; it’s just exactly as it sounds:
After UEFA finally decided when the Women’s Champions League was going to return, they also came with the great idea of allowing clubs to register up to six new players for the Women’s Champions League quarter-finals; something that undermines the sporting integrity of the competition.
In fact, it fundamentally alters the nature of it. However, if we think about it – and this could also be compared to the men’s UCL taking place in August – the tournament will be more of a pre-season for all teams, but, obviously, with more at stake.
UEFA also demanded that entrants into the 2020/21 tournament be determined on sporting merit, forcing the Women’s Super League to pick winners and losers from a season with only 72% of games played, and other leagues into a similar situation. Yet, for the conclusion of the 2019/20, the Champions League has shifted the goalposts.
In many ways it makes sense to have this additional flexibility, which also says no more than three players can be registered from other Champions League quarter-finalists. So, with the leagues in France, Spain, Scotland and England suspended, and Germany’s Bundesliga planned to be concluded in late June, following a restart, the transfer window will automatically open very soon.
A host of players at the end of their contracts were released and others sold. That, in and of itself, made a mockery of the idea that the continuation of the Champions League could maintain sporting integrity. Teams had fundamentally changed due to this pandemic, and UEFA needed to take note of that.
Now, instead of teams weakened by outgoings having new signings stuck in the stands, we will see some of the best players and teams in the world battle to be European champions.
At one stage, Lyon had been looking at a title defence without the out-of-contract England duo Lucy Bronze and Alex Greenwood, goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi and play-maker Dzsenifer Marozsán, as well as no Griedge Mbock or Ada Hegerberg due to injury. Bronze and Greenwood were swiftly retained on two-month deals, and Bouhaddi and Marozsán, who looked to be heading to the US, were given new contracts.
Though, the reigning champions can also call upon the Australian defender Ellie Carpenter, midfielder Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir, goalkeeper Lola Gallardo and French left-back Sakina Karchaoui to cover those needs thanks to UEFA’s new rule for this season.
Meanwhile, Arsenal, the only club not to have qualified for next season’s edition, can register the Australian right-back Steph Catley, goalkeeper Lydia Williams, Swiss defender Noëlle Maritz and midfielder Malin Gut. With winning the rescheduled competition the team’s last option of securing a place in the 2020/21 tournament, it is a vital boost to their depleted numbers.
Another example is Atlético Madrid’s, who’s first and second-choice goalkeepers left after reaching the end of their contracts; however, the club will not be forced into fielding their third and fourth choice players and will be able to have World Cup finalist Hedvig Lindahl and the former Arsenal keeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin.
Arsenal’s opponents PSG, Bayern Munich, who face Lyon, and Barcelona, who play Atlético, have recruited heavily. Until the August 18th deadline for registering tournament players we can expect more movement. Clubs may also look to secure short-term loans for players in the US because the NWSL Challenge Cup concludes on July 26th.
What UEFA has done is to shift the tournament from limping across the line to being a thrilling unpredictable spectacle that will plug a 7-month hole without women’s football for many English clubs.
As they already announced, games will take place in San Sebastián’s Anoeta stadium and the San Mamés in Bilbao over nine days, concluding on August 30th.
UEFA wants to give an extra boost to the tournament, even if some people could see this as “chaotic”. Yet, sometimes, you’ve just got to embrace the chaos to grow forward.