Cloé Lacasse, Ashley Lawrence and Marie-Yasmine Alidou kick off busy summer of transfers for CanWNT players
It was a busy 24 hours for CanWNT players and big transfers in Europe, as several Canadians made key moves to new clubs ahead of the 2023-2024 season.
With the World Cup now less than a month away, several elected to secure their club futures before kicking off the tournament, instead of waiting until after.
Understandable, given that the tournament kicks off quite late compared to a typical World Cup, it looks like it’ll spark a busy start to the summer transfer window, before cooling down in time for the start of the tournament.
Then, things could likely pick up afterwards, given how much a tournament like the World Cup can improve one’s stock, but based on early returns, it looks like most big clubs are wanting to do their business as early as possible.
That was good news for a trio of Canadians, as Cloé Lacasse completed a long-awaited move from Benfica to Arsenal on Thursday, Ashley Lawrence finally joined Chelsea from PSG on Friday, and Marie Yasmine Alidou signed for Benfica from Famalicão just hours later.
Now, all three look to use these moves as a boost ahead of the World Cup, all while kicking off what could be a busy summer of movement for Canadians, especially depending on how the World Cup goes for the defending gold medallists.
Cloé Lacasse to Arsenal:
After pursuing her services for months, Arsenal finally closed a deal to bring in 29-year-old Cloé Lacasse from Benfica this week, securing the services of the 2022-2023 Portuguese League MVP for the 2023-2024 season.
Having been in negotiations with Benfica over a potential record deal for a Portuguese League player, Arsenal managed to get the deal over the line on Thursday, announcing her as the team’s newest signing.
Fresh off her best campaign with Benfica, with whom she spent four seasons, it’s a big move for Lacasse, too, who looks more than ready to make a jump of this calibre.
Coming off a season where she scored 35 goals and added 18 assists in 43 games across all competitions, including five goals in the Champions League, Lacasse was dominant for Benfica last season.
Helping them complete a domestic double of the league and Taça da Liga, to go along with the Supertaça they won back in the fall, it was a strong way to end her Benfica stint, in which she won eight trophies with the club.
Now, with Arsenal, a new challenge awaits.
It’s official. Cloe Lacasse is a Gunner 🇨🇦— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) June 29, 2023
Having finished third in the league, 11 points behind winners Chelsea, they’re looking to claim their first league title since 2019, which is a big goal for them. Then, in the cups, they’ll look to defend their League Cup title from last year, while avenging a fifth-round finish in the FA Cup after being eliminated by eventual champions Chelsea.
Lastly, they’ll also return to Europe eager to build on a run to the semi-finals in the Champions League, where they narrowly fell to Wolfsburg in a heartbreaking tie to miss out on their first final since 2007.
Lacasse will be key to all of that, helping shore up an attack that suffered after losing key attackers Beth Mead and Vivienne Miedema to injuries last season, bolstering their depth with her arrival.
Plus, she joins another Canadian in Sabrina D’Angelo, who signed for the club last winter, adding to a growing contingent of Canadians in England, which should help her adjust to this jump.
Ashley Lawrence to Chelsea:
Speaking of that growing Canadian contingent in England, Ashley Lawrence also took her talents to the country on Friday, as she officially signed with Chelsea through 2026 as a free agent.
Having first been linked to Chelsea back in March, after rumours emerged that she wouldn’t renew her contract at PSG, both parties finally made the signing official this week after Lawrence officially announced her departure from the Paris-based club days prior.
It’s a big move for Lawrence, who had spent parts of seven seasons at PSG, where she signed fresh out of college back in 2017. There, she made over 150 appearances, lifting one D1Arkema title, two Coupe de France crowns and finishing as a runner-up in the Champions League in 2016-2017, as they spent most of their time fighting to avoid sitting in the shadow of French giants, Lyon.
Now, she joins a Chelsea club that will push to win trophies next season, fresh off a campaign where they nabbed a fourth straight league title, a third straight FA Cup, and finished as runners-up in the League Cup, narrowly missing out on a domestic treble.
Along with a decent run in Europe, where they made it to the semi-finals of the Champions League, narrowly losing 2-1 on aggregate to eventual champions Barcelona, it was an overall solid campaign for the London-based club.
At the same time, they feel that they can push for more, and a signing like that of Lawrence further cements that belief, as she’s regarded as one of the best in the world at the full back position, and can fill in all over the field with her tactical versatility.
Plus, she joins two of Canada’s top players, five-time Champions League winner Kadeisha Buchanan and the tricky Jessie Fleming, at the club, which should make Chelsea a side to watch for Canadians next year.
Eager to push for the quadruple, including their first-ever Champions League crown, they’re certainly building a squad that can help do that, and will be boosted by Lawrence’s arrival to aid them in that quest.
Marie Yasmine Alidou to Benfica:
Less than 24 hours after reports emerged that midfielder Marie Yasmine Alidou was rumoured to join Benfica from Famalicão, the transfer was quickly confirmed on Friday, as she signed a two-year deal with the Portuguese giants through 2025.
There, it’s a great step up for the 28-year-old, who only joined Famalicão last year. Despite that, she quickly took to her new club, scoring 12 goals and adding four assists in 32 games across all competitions in her debut season, including eight goals and four assists in 20 league games.
Plus, she helped the club win their first-ever trophy, as they defeated SC Braga in the Taça De Portugal final, capping a solid season in style.
Alidou played a key role in that victory, as well, even scoring in the first leg of the semi-finals as Famalicão defeated Benfica 5-4 across two legs, halting their quest for a domestic treble, which likely alerted Benfica to Alidou as a potential signing.
Now, she comes to the club at a perfect time, as they’re looking to replace Lacasse, allowing them to do so with another Canadian.
Alidou won’t be a like-for-like replacement for Lacasse, as Lacasse is more of a winger/forward, while Alidou is more of a midfielder/#10, but she’ll certainly look to chip in offensively, as she did with Famalicão.
From there, she’ll look to help Benfica try and win their first-ever domestic treble, while pushing back into the Champions League, for which they’ll kick off qualifiers in September, as they look to return to the tournament proper for a fourth straight season.
It’s been a wild ride for Alidou, who played in USports with the UQAM Citadins from 2013 to 2017 before going on a journey that saw her go through France, Sweden, Spain, Norway, Austria and then Portugal, while only making her Canada debut in 2022.
All of a sudden, she now finds herself at a club like Benfica, and is very much in contention to make Canada’s World Cup squad, currently sitting as one of the 25 players who Bev Priestman is evaluating before whittling her list down to 23 in a few weeks time.
As mentioned, these moves could prove to be just the start of what’s to come for CanWNT players in the transfer market, too.
Deanne Rose is expected to make a big move, as she officially became a free agent after Reading was relegated from the FAWSL, and is expected to attract a whole host of suitors from England, the NWSL and elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Adriana Leon could be looking for a new club now that her short-term loan to the Portland Thorns from Manchester United has expired, given that United have been shopping her around since the winter, when she nearly joined AC Milan.
Otherwise, Julia Grosso continues to be linked with top clubs after a strong first full season with Juventus and could be an intriguing target for a team needing a midfielder, as Grosso has already emerged as one of the best in the world at that position, and still has all sorts of potential.
Then, elsewhere, several more names could earn themselves moves with strong tournaments, so there will be lots to keep an eye on.
No doubt, however, that this will be a big summer for CanWNT players, and the last 24 hours just provided a taste of what’s to come in that regard.