Sonia Bompastor and the worst-kept secret at the Women’s Champions League final

(Getty Images)

If Emma Hayes had done a Jurgen Klopp, perhaps the build-up to this weekend’s Women’s Champions League final would have been a bit different, but not by much.

During the Liverpool manager’s farewell to Anfield, Klopp grabbed the microphone and chanted the name of his successor, Arne Slot, before the Dutchman had been officially confirmed by the club. Hayes and Chelsea could not afford to do the same, after winning a fifth Women’s Super League title in a row at Old Trafford, but if she had, it wouldn’t have been too much a surprise to hear who would be replacing her at Stamford Bridge.

Sonia Bompastor and Lyon, may be grateful for that, though, even if Bompastor’s future remains the worst-kept secret in Bilbao ahead of the Champions League final at San Mames. Chelsea did not want to disrupt the French club’s preparations before facing holders Barcelona but Bompastor is certain to depart, regardless of whether Lyon regain their European crown. After 12 years of Hayes, Bompastor is set to be confirmed as Chelsea’s next manager after the weekend.

The 43-year-old Bompastor could leave on a high, having already led Lyon to three consecutive Division 1 Féminine titles and the Women’s Champions League since taking charge in 2021. It at least reflects Chelsea’s ambition to sustain the success Hayes brought. It may appear impossible to replace what Chelsea have lost, with Hayes such a transformational and charismatic figurehead, but approaching a European superpower and taking from one of the best is a signal of where Chelsea want to be.

Certainly, as the only female manager to win the Women’s Champions League in the last 15 years, beating Barcelona in the 2022 final, Chelsea believe Bompastor can help the club take the next step in Europe. A counter-argument is that Bompastor would have more to prove. Lyon’s dominance preceded her time in charge, winning five of their record eight Women’s Champions League titles between 2016 and 2020. Bompastor inherited one of the strongest squads in women’s football.

And yet Bompastor’s roots at Lyon go deeper, as the first woman to win the Champions League as both a player and a coach. Having made 156 appearances for the France national team, Bompastor captained Lyon to Champions League titles in 2011 and 2012. As a former full-back and midfielder, Bompastor was blessed with a “wand of a left foot”, Hayes said before Chelsea’s Champions League quarter-final with Lyon last year.

women’s champions league, emma hayes, sonia bompastor, olympique lyonnais women, barcelona fc, sonia bompastor and the worst-kept secret at the women’s champions league final
Bompastor and Lyon defeated Barcelona to win the Champions League in 2022 (Getty Images)

Bompastor moved into coaching after her retirement, working within Lyon’s academy until Jean-Luc Vasseur was sacked and rivals Paris Saint-Germain became champions of France for the first time in 2021. Since taking charge and working alongside assistant Camille Abily, the former France and Lyon midfielder, Bompastor has reasserted the club’s dominant position. Lyon won the league by nine points this season and they are unbeaten in Europe.

Lyon’s comeback against PSG in the semi-finals, after going 2-0 down at home in the first leg, was the standout moment of their campaign. Lyon did not panic and Bompastor guided the recovery. It sets up a second meeting in three seasons against Barcelona. Should Lyon win, she would become the first female manager to win the Women’s Champions League twice.

Chelsea, though, appear to be convinced already. It is significant that Hayes is set to be replaced by another woman, given how the departing Chelsea manager has spoken at length about the lack of female coaches in England and the elite levels of football. It all comes as Barcelona, whose current head coach Jonatan Giraldez will also be leaving after the Bilbao final, weigh up appointing the first female head coach in the club’s history.

For now, Chelsea are prepared to wait a little longer - Hayes previously said it was “unfair” to discuss her replacement prior to joining the United States. Lyon and Bompastor are fully focussed on claiming a record-extending ninth Women’s Champions League. As for what’s next, it could all be confirmed shortly after.

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