We look back to April 2013, a time when Chelsea FC Women made history by becoming the first, and so far only, Women’s Super League side to recruit a Brazilian player.
Ester Aparecida dos Santos joined the Blues ahead of our 2013 WSL campaign and the defensive midfielder came with a wealth of experience having finished as a runner up in the 2007 World Cup and 2008 Summer Olympics, as well as appearing in the 2012 Olympic Games.That memorable event in London helped kickstart the growth of women’s football, which has seen it develop into the popular sport we all know of today, and the recruitment of Ester was a sign of intent from manager Emma Hayes ahead of her first full season in charge.Hayes and her newly-appointed assistant Paul Green – who had previously held a similar role with Doncaster Rovers Belles – made full use of their connections in the women's game and the off-season was used to rebuild the squad which saw some impressive signings come in.Among them were Chelsea legend Eniola Aluko, who returned to her former club after a spell at Birmingham, Swedish striker Sofia Jakobsson and, of course, Ester.The Brazilian claimed she had joined the club for a ‘new challenge’ and at her unveiling she said: ‘I feel at home already and am very happy to play for such a big club.’
Upon signing Ester, Hayes said: ‘Even though she's a defensive midfielder, there's something about Brazilian footballers that captures the imagination.‘It's been a long, drawn out process to get all the relevant paperwork in place, but we're delighted to get the deal done and we're all very excited at the prospect of seeing the first Brazilian player to grace the Women's Super League.‘We're sure she's going to be a big success for the club.’However, the midfielder went on to make only 10 WSL appearances for Chelsea, before departing in the autumn to join newly promoted Bundesliga club BV Cloppenburg. Hayes also sold Jakobsson to the German side at the same time.‘We received an offer from Cloppenburg which we feIt was good business for the club,’ Hayes said.‘We have confidence in the talent coming through at the club and developing opportunities for our own players is very much our aim.’Drew Spence and Hannah Blundell were among that ‘talent’, and Hayes said the following about the two Chelsea academy graduates.
‘Drew Spence is kicking on now, finding consistency and the best is yet to come.‘She's growing in quality and beginning to fulfill that potential – remember, she's still only 20. With time and regular football, she will go on to become one of the top midfielders in the country.‘Hannah is a wonderful player who has got superb balance, great technique and a willingness to learn. We've converted her to full-back and she's still learning the defensive side of the game, but this is a player we have really high hopes for.’
The Chelsea boss was right to trust in the youngsters as both Spence and Blundell have gone on to play a big part in unprecedented success enjoyed by the club in recent years. The duo have so far accumulated an impressive 350 appearances and 57 goals for Chelsea.