Wales international captain Sophie Ingle is rejoining Chelsea Women.
The 26-year-old, who previously played for the club in 2012 and 2013, has signed from Liverpool on a two-year contract.
Ingle brings plenty of Women’s Super League experience to Emma Hayes’ squad, having spent the past two-and-a-half years on Merseyside and the two before that at Bristol Academy. She is able to play in defence or midfield.
On joining up with the Blues once more, Ingle said: ‘As soon as I got the call from Chelsea it was massive for me. I enjoyed my time at Liverpool, but this is a new challenge and I think I'm ready for it. I need to push on with my career and I've come to a club that is the number one in England, winning plenty of trophies, and I hope to do that here.
‘They've got so much strength in depth in the squad. The club is full of international players and I'm excited to be training and playing with them day in, day out. Hopefully I can become a better player because of it. The club has changed massively – they've built and built over the years and they've got the rewards they deserve.’
Ingle revealed she spoke to Beth England who was on loan to Liverpool from Chelsea last season. ‘She said, “You've got to go for it. It's a great club to be at.” I want to be at a club that challenges me and makes me a better player, and if we can win silverware together it will be massive.’
Manager Emma Hayes said: ‘We are delighted to bring Sophie back to the club.
‘We’ve been monitoring her since she left us – I think it’s fair to say she’s been the key player for club and country, especially over the past 12 months. She’s a top performer and has been quietly getting the plaudits every week.
‘The time is right both for Sophie and us for this next step. Chelsea is a much different place from when she left us and she brings the right ingredients we are looking for in terms of the right mentality. I think she is going to push the existing squad to be fighting for a place in the team.
‘The players that we want to bring in, we really want them to challenge the starters and we know with Sophie’s experience and her ability, she will do that pretty much right away.'
‘She’s a very intelligent player,’ Hayes added. ‘We know all about her technical ability and we think she’s now got the right experience as well as the right pedigree to kick on and really progress with us. She’s got the versatility to play both at the back and in midfield and for us that is critical to what we are doing so she will be considered in both positions.’
— Emma Hayes
Ingle played her early Women’s Premier League football at Cardiff City Ladies where she won the Welsh Cup. Her move to Chelsea followed, and an appearance in another cup final, this time the 2012 Women’s FA Cup decider although she was on the losing side with Matt Beard’s team missing out on penalties.
At Bristol she became captain and tasted Champions League football. They made waves by beating Barcelona. By the time she moved to Liverpool in December 2015 following the West Country club’s relegation from the WSL, she was skipper of her national side too.
Having played for Wales at Under-17 and Under-19 level, Ingle won her first senior cap in 2009 and has gone on to play over 50 times for her country. She was Wales' Players' Player of the Year and Wales' Supporters Players of the Year in 2016 and at club level, she was named Liverpool Ladies Player of the Season last year.