Aluko joins the NWSL expansion club – which can count Natalie Portman, Serena Williams and Mia Hamm among its owners – after leaving Aston Villa
Future NWSL expansion team Angel City FC has announced that former England international Eni Aluko will be its first-ever sporting director.
Aluko left the same role at Aston Villa last week after just over a year with the Women’s Super League club. It was a role she took shortly after calling time on a playing career that saw her represent the Lionesses over 100 times, with Chelsea and Juventus among the seven clubs she played for across 17 years.
The 34-year-old also spent two years in the United States as a player and now returns to the country, joining an exciting project in Los Angeles that features 14 former U.S. women’s national team stars, such as Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach, award-winning actresses, including Natalie Portman and Eva Longoria, and tennis star Serena Williams.
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What has been said?
“I’m so honored, excited and thrilled to be joining Angel City as its first sporting director,” Aluko said. “It’s a standalone, independent club with its own global vision and its own female-led ownership group. The club is breaking new ground and has the power to inspire people across the world. That’s one of the things that I felt really made Angel City stand out from other clubs – it’s real, global reach.
“My life very much reflects somebody that [is] okay with being the first. I’m okay with breaking down barriers. I’m okay with breaking molds and doing things a little bit differently. That comes with a target on your back sometimes, but I think that’s just part of my purpose. So when we talked a lot about it being a purpose led organization that gives back to community, that really spoke to me in terms of the philanthropy I’ve done in my life.”
Aluko’s role will involve assembling an entirely new squad from scratch, ahead of the club taking to the field for the first time next year, which was something that really appealed to the former Chelsea forward.
“I don’t think many of these opportunities can really exist in football, because football typically you’re dealing with clubs that have been around for hundreds of years, so that’s steeped in tradition, the way things are always done,” she said.
“Trying to change and progress can sometimes be quite difficult, you feel a lot of resistance, because people are creatures of habit, they do what they’ve always done. So this is really an unmissable opportunity and an honor really to have a truly blank canvas.”
I’m thrilled to join @weareangelcity. This is an incredible opportunity to help write the club’s first chapter and to build a team that is people-focused and admired all over the world. I can’t wait to get started and join a fantastic female led ownership group. #WeAreAngelCity pic.twitter.com/aNNzccSzJX
— Eniola Aluko (@EniAlu) May 20, 2021
Who will be on Angel City’s roster?
Speaking about how the club’s inaugural roster could look, Aluko said: “The NWSL is an incredibly exciting league and there’s lots of transitional play. For me, when I look at what that entails, that’s lots of pace, players that are bold, courageous, they get you off your seat. That’s what I see in the league currently and that’s definitely something I want to build as well in terms of the playing squad, whilst also having a good balance defensively.
“I think in terms of the make-up and the DNA of the team, I’m really keen to have players that have a deeper bond to the city. That comes with a different level of commitment that you can’t really buy. That may give you a clue in terms of players.
“Also, we’ve talked a lot about the global outlook. I’ve played in teams where we had players from all over the world and it’s just beautiful, because it creates that really inclusive, diverse feeling. That’s what I’m going for. The global diversity reflected through the internationals, but also a real connection to the badge.”
Asked about whether any England internationals may follow her to the United States, Aluko responded: “Of course, maybe. I have a lot of time to assess what is best and what fits. It’s a bit like a jigsaw. That is looking at the player pool around the world, in the best leagues, and that includes England.
“One thing I was really proud about with Aston Villa was that it was one of the most diverse teams in the league. That’s something that is almost non-negotiable for me. That’s exciting for me, that’s something that I really want to reflect and that means looking all over the world literally, for players and that’s the fun part of my role. So yes, you might see some English representation. Watch this space.”
When will Angel City join the NWSL?
The Los Angeles-based club are set to begin their journey on the pitch in 2022. In November 2020, it was announced that the team would use the Banc of California Stadium – home of Major League Soccer side LAFC – as its home ground.
Later this year, Angel City will choose a large part of its inaugural roster in the expansion draft, which is scheduled to take place on December 16.
Sacramento were also set to take part in this draft, in which the newly-founded clubs select players from existing NWSL teams that have not been protected. However, it has since been reported that the ownership group will change its location from Sacramento to San Diego.
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