Chelsea have announced the signing of Lauren James from Manchester United, for what Goal understands to be a record fee between Women's Super League clubs.
James struggled with injuries this past season in Manchester but, ranking at No.4 in Goal's 2020 NXGN list, the 19-year-old remains one of the most exciting young talents in world football and has signed a four-year contract.
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What has been said?
Speaking about her return to the club, having played for Chelsea's Academy from Under-10 to Under-14 level, James said: "It’s a great feeling to come back home, to a great club, the club I started at the age of six.
"To be able to play for the first team now and come back here to Emma [Hayes, Chelsea manager] and the rest of the group is a good feeling. I’m excited to get started and I can’t wait to meet all the fans at Kingsmeadow when the new season kicks in."
Hayes added: "Lauren is an exciting, young talent who we have admired for a while.
"When the opportunity came up to sign her, we felt now was the right time to bring her back to the club. We’re excited to see how she develops in the coming years and look forward to welcoming her to pre-season training."
What will James bring to Chelsea?
A dynamic, powerful forward, James' close control, fantastic dribbling ability and strength on the ball make her a nightmare for defenders. She can strike the ball with either foot and is deadly both in the box as well as outside of it, such is her ability from range.
The teenager hasn't got a full WSL season under her belt, with injuries limiting her in both 2019-20 and 2020-21, while the former season was also curtailed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, with eight goals in just 14 starts in the top flight so far, it's clear that when she can get a real run of games together, she will be a force.
James will have to compete more than ever for that starting spot, though, which could bring even more out of her. Hayes' Chelsea are stacked in the attacking department, with the likes of Sam Kerr, Pernille Harder and Fran Kirby among the manager's options.
What next for Manchester United?
The sale of James will be another tough pill to swallow for United fans, who also saw head coach Casey Stoney leave at the end of last season. She has since been announced as the head coach of San Diego, the new NWSL expansion side.
U.S. women's national team duo Christen Press and Tobin Heath also departed upon the season's end, while defender Amy Turner, a star performer in 2020-21, has joined the Orlando Pride. With Jess Sigsworth also joining newly-promoted Leicester City and Jane Ross leaving for Rangers, the squad is rather depleted.
However, even though no new manager has been announced yet, United have made two signings this week - Vilde Boe Risa, a highly-rated Norwegian midfielder from Sandviken, and Hannah Blundell, a three-time England international defender who was part of Chelsea's double-winning season, arriving at the club.