Chelsea announced the signing of German Olympic gold-medallist Melanie Leupolz on Monday, despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
Midfielder Leupolz will join from Bayern Munich, where she played for six years, winning back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 2015 and 2016.
Despite being club captain in Munich, the 25-year-old has chosen now to seek her first challenge abroad, and after signing a three-year deal in London, will be a key part of Chelsea’s campaign next season – whenever that may start.
Leupolz said: “I believe in what Chelsea are doing as a club and I am excited to be a part of that. They want to win titles, and so do I.
“I also like the style of football they play. I have seen a lot of their matches and I think it’s the right club for me.”
Whilst the deal was agreed several weeks ago, the pre-contract was only announced last week (Monday March 23).
Images and video of Leupolz in London were taken several weeks ago, before the expansion of the coronavirus crisis made international travel next-to-impossible, and halting football seasons here and in Germany.
This season, the Blues sit second between Manchester City and Arsenal in the WSL, a three-way title race which has been one of this season’s best football narratives.
Bayern Munich also sit second in the Bundesliga, eight points behind VfL Wolfsburg.
Both leagues are suspended due to Covid-19, with no play until late April at the earliest.
What does this mean for Chelsea?
Leupolz is Chelsea’s third marquee signing in less than 12 months, after Norwegian forward Guro Reiten joined last summer, and the acquisition of Sam Kerr was finalised in December.
Chelsea lost in the semi-finals of the Champions League two years in a row, and then failed to qualify for the 2019-20 campaign after finishing third last season.
There will be more opportunities for English clubs in Europe when the WSL gets a third spot in the Champions League from 2021-22 onwards.
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes wants to ensure her squad have the quality required for European competition, as well as the WSL.
Emma Hayes said: “It’s a real statement of intent that she chose Chelsea and it shows just how far we’ve come as a football club.
“Melanie is versatile, she’s got wonderful qualities in the midfield areas and she will provide much-needed depth – I’m looking forward to welcoming her to the club.”
Who is Melanie Leupolz?
Leupolz has been a stand-out name in German football, and was recognised as one of Germany’s top young players when she won the Fritz-Walter Medal in 2013.
She started her senior career at Freiburg before joining Bayern in the summer of 2014. She became club captain two years ago, but played down the importance of the role.
She said: “It’s just like a position like every other player too. You wear an armband but you have to take the responsibility if you are a captain or not.”
She made her international debut in 2013, becoming part of the squad that won the European Championships in 2013. So far, Leupolz has won 66 international caps, including Olympic gold at the 2016 Games in Rio.
The right-footed midfielder has a good eye for finding spaces for team-mates, and playing balls forward to the strike force.
Leupolz has already enjoyed success in London, scoring the winning header as Bayern beat Arsenal 1-0 in an Emirates Cup fixture at Emirates Stadium last July, and as part of the Germany side which beat England in a friendly at Wembley in November.
Beyond football, Leupolz has a degree in business administration and management. She is currently studying business psychology, focusing on ‘leadership and management’, which is her preferred path to follow when her football career finishes.