Who is Chelsea’s new female boss, Sonia Bompastor?

 Who is Chelsea’s new female boss, Sonia Bompastor?

After 12 remarkable years leading Chelsea and securing 14 major trophies, Emma Hayes has moved on to become the head coach of the United States women’s national team. Her departure leaves a significant void in west London.

Stepping into her formidable shoes is Sonia Bompastor.

At 43, Bompastor has been confirmed as Hayes’ successor on a four-year contract, leaving Lyon despite having a year left on her deal. Her career is adorned with a wealth of domestic and European honors, both as a player and a coach. The former captain of the French national team is known for her consistent winning mentality and a proven track record of success.

So, what should Chelsea fans anticipate from Bompastor? What is her management style, and is she the right person to succeed Hayes? BBC Sport delves into these questions with insights from French football expert Julien Laurens.

‘One of the greatest players in French football history’

Sonia Bompastor, a former midfielder who also had the versatility to play in defense, enjoyed an illustrious career in football. She was capped 156 times by France and played for various clubs, including La Roche-sur-Yon, Montpellier, Washington Freedom, and Paris Saint-Germain.

However, it was her exceptional career at Lyon, where she had two stints, that truly cemented her legacy. During her time with Lyon, she won 11 major trophies and captained the team to consecutive UEFA Women’s Champions League titles.

“To start with, she is one of the greatest players we’ve had in French football history,” football journalist Laurens told BBC Sport. “You don’t have to have played to be a top coach, but having been there before in every sense of the word, winning everything and playing all those games, is a massive thing. 

I don’t know how many of the Chelsea girls will know the great player she was, but certainly in France she has got that charisma, that character, the reputation, and the name.”

After retiring from playing with Lyon in 2013, Bompastor transitioned into a pivotal role off the pitch. She became the director of Lyon’s women’s academy, a position she held for eight years. 

Her leadership and vision were instrumental in developing young talent. In 2021, she broke new ground by becoming the first female coach of Europe’s most dominant women’s side.

Bompastor’s first full season as Lyon’s head coach was nothing short of spectacular. The team went unbeaten in the league, securing the title, and triumphed over Barcelona in the Women’s Champions League final. 

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This victory made Bompastor the first person to win the competition as both a player and a manager, and the first female manager to achieve this feat since Martina Voss-Tecklenburg in 2009.

Under her guidance, Lyon continued to excel, winning three successive league titles and one French Cup, further solidifying her status as a trailblazer in women’s football.

“She is made from the same kind of mold as Emma Hayes,” Laurens added. “She is made from similar ambition, drive, demands and the attention to detail as well.”

What style of football does Bompastor play?

At Lyon, Sonia Bompastor gained recognition for her tactical flexibility and in-game adaptability, often favoring a 4-3-3 formation. Her teams were known for their ability to dominate possession through quick transitions, controlling the midfield, and effectively exploiting wide areas. Defensively, her squads were solid, with a strong emphasis on pressing to force turnovers.

“Tactically, they play really good football,” football journalist Laurens noted. “You can see the idea, the way they play nice football, the pass-and-move style she always wanted to implement.”

Bompastor had the privilege of working with one of the best squads in Europe at Lyon and adeptly managed big personalities within the team. She also had a proven track record of giving younger players opportunities and integrating them into the senior team, a strategy also employed by Emma Hayes at Chelsea.

Her style will be familiar to some Chelsea players, as both Catarina Macario and Kadeisha Buchanan played under her at Lyon. “She is always wanting more,” Laurens added. “Always wanting to win, always hungry, always quite demanding for success as well.”

“She can be tough at times, but also she can be friendly. If you need her she is there. She has got so many qualities.”

The best candidate’

Sonia Bompastor faces the challenging task of building on the immense success achieved by Emma Hayes at Chelsea. Hayes’ tenure saw the club win seven Women’s Super League titles, five FA Cups, and two League Cups. 

While Hayes’ departure marks the end of an era, Bompastor’s appointment signals the beginning of an exciting new chapter for the club. Bringing in a manager of Bompastor’s caliber is a move that should energize fans.

The one trophy that eluded Hayes at Chelsea was the Champions League. By appointing Bompastor, Chelsea has made a strong statement of intent. “I think there is a lot of pressure and expectation coming after Hayes,” football journalist Laurens observed. 

“But if you look at who could have taken over, I think she was the best candidate, I really do. Only time and results will tell, but on paper, she looks great, she looks like she will fit in.”

Bompastor’s final game in charge of Lyon was the Women’s Champions League final, where her team was defeated 2-0 by Barcelona.

Why now?

Sonia Bompastor’s farewell at Lyon did not go as planned. Her final game in charge seemed destined to end with her lifting the Women’s Champions League trophy once more, but Barcelona dashed those hopes with a 2-0 victory in Bilbao.

So, why move to Chelsea now?

“She won everything already at Lyon,” explained football journalist Laurens. “She was ready for a new adventure, something bigger. Really, there’s nothing bigger than Chelsea.”

While the French national team was an option, Laurens noted that Bompastor is too young for that role and will have plenty of opportunities to take it in the future.

Laurens pointed out that it was destiny for the end of Hayes’ Chelsea dynasty to align with Bompastor’s desire for a new challenge. “She always had the ambition to go abroad at the end of her contract. 

It’s just that Hayes announcing her departure may have sped things up a bit. When the Chelsea job became available, they had already identified her as a candidate. The pieces of the jigsaw just fell into place perfectly.”

“The planets aligned and she was ready personally, the opportunity came and she was never not going to take it. If Chelsea come knocking right now, I don’t think many managers would say no.”

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