Maren Mjelde

Date of birth: 6 November 1989
Place of birth: Bergen
Position: Defender/midfielder
International: Norway senior
Trophies won at Chelsea: FA WSL Spring Series 2017

Highly-rated Norway captain Maren Mjelde linked up with Chelsea in January 2017 after a decade of high-level competition across the continent.

She has been a regular for her country since her teens, filling several defensive roles for Norway including right-back for the first time in her career when skippering the side to a breakthrough victory over Germany in the UEFA Women’s Euro 2013 group stage. Yet she has picked up the majority of her international caps, which are more than 100 in total, as a defence-minded central midfielder. She scored a delightful free-kick from 20 yards to equalise against Germany at the 2015 World Cup.

Mjelde made her name with Arna-Bjornar in her homeland before reaching the Women’s Champions League semi-finals with Turbine Potsdam, who also finished runners-up in the German Cup and League competitions in her first season at the club. She enjoyed a spell in Sweden with Gothenborg before returning to Norway to compete for Avaldsnes IL.

Her level of expertise was immediately apparent when she took well to English football and the Chelsea Ladies side as if she had been here for years. After initially impressing in defence, including a dogged performance against Birmingham in the Women’s FA Cup semi-final while she was suffering with a migraine, Mjelde went on to star in midfield.

She barely put a foot wrong in or out of possession, typically making the right judgement of when to pass or to hold onto the ball, and winning it back with a mixture of tenacity and intelligent positional play. Those ingredients alone would have been enough to make her a fans’ favourite, but throw into the mix pinpoint delivery from set-pieces and we had an instant cult hero on our hands.

Mjelde was the only player to start all 11 matches during her maiden campaign, the 2017 Spring Series, and she captained the side against Yeovil on her league debut for the Blues. Her only goal was a well-placed shot in a win at Sunderland.