Bayern welcomes New Zealand captain Ali Riley
According to fcbayern.com, Riley has played 129 caps for New Zealand. During her time at FC Rosengård, she became Swedish champion, cup and supercup winner – three times in each competition. At Chelsea, she only stayed for one season, partly also due to injury concerns. Since the club failed to qualify for the Champions League next season, coach Emma Hayes couldn’t promise Riley a lot of game time in a top-quality squad. At Chelsea, Riley made it into the starting eleven only seven times, but fully recovered just in time for the World Cup in France this summer.
At the World Cup, Riley captained New Zealand in all three group games and played the full 90 minutes in every match. In two games, she was the classic left-back of the back four. She had a good grip on Dutch striker Shanice van de Sanden in the game against World Cup runners-up Netherlands. Canada’s Nichelle Prince, however, was able to initiate a goal by slipping the ball through the defense on her side. Against Cameroon, she played as wingback in a back five defense and initiated one of the best chances of the Kiwis with her cross.
“Ali is an important new addition to our team because of her international experience. She is very versatile and can be used on both wings and will be an important part of our team to have a successful season.“ New Bayern coach Jens Scheuer, fcbayern.com
Bayern’s defense has indeed a couple of open spots. After Gina Lewandowski returned to her home country, the US, and Leonie Maier transferred to Arsenal London, there almost 1,800 minutes of match time in the league alone to be reallocated – also to uphold the competition for Kathy Hendrich and Verena Schweers. Moreover, with Fridolina Rolfö (Wolfsburg), Sara Däbritz (Paris Saint-Germain) and Jill Roord (Arsenal), three more regulars have left the club, as well as Anna Gerhardt (Potsdam), an injury-prone talent on the left wing.
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“I’m already very excited and am happy to get started and become part of this big club. […] Of course I want to win titles, and I’m looking forward to playing in the Champions League. I want my experience and spirit to contribute to the club’s success.“ Ali Riley, fcbayern.com
What she means with “spirit” becomes clear when we let other people talk about Ali Riley:
„She’s made a telling impact on the Chelsea community, throughout the club — the amount of compliments I’ve received, from the media team, the education department, through to commercial. They’ve all said what a wonderful role model she is for the women’s department. She’s an advocate of a lot of positive news stories and I wish her all the best with her next career move. She’ll be a huge success.“ Chelsea coach Emma Hayes, stuff.co.nz.
Ali Riley is refreshingly bucking the trend that sees transfers between Germany and England only going one way – to the island. On the other hand, it is pretty obvious that Riley’s football skills are not top-notch. Even Gina Lewandowski with her great fighting spirit could not live up to the expectations anymore last season. However, she was able to give important impulses for the Bayern team whenever she was on the pitch, in training and not least on a human level.
We expect nothing less from Ali Riley. Welcome to the club!
Translated by Katrin.