Emma Hayes does not believe the Champions League should define her Chelsea reign

Blues boss Hayes is set to end a successful 12-year tenure in the summer to become head coach of the United States women’s team.

Emma Hayes’ Chelsea face Ajax on Wednesday
Emma Hayes’ Chelsea face Ajax on Wednesday (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Emma Hayes does not believe her trophy-laden Chelsea reign should be defined by whether she can end the club’s wait for a maiden Women’s Champions League crown.

Blues boss Hayes is set to end a successful 12-year tenure in the summer to become head coach of the United States women’s team.

The 47-year-old has won six Women’s Super League titles and lifted the FA Cup five times during her time in charge but continental glory has proved elusive.

Chelsea are on course to reach the semi-finals in Europe in Hayes’ swansong season, having built a 3-0 aggregate lead going into Wednesday evening’s quarter-final second leg at home to Ajax.

“Of course, if I was able to win the Champions League in my time here I’m sure it would be another unbelievable achievement,” she said.

“But for my era to be defined by one competition is probably not what matters most to me.

“What matters most – beyond the winning over the years – is that I will leave the shirt in a better place.

“That’s probably the thing I’m most invested in – to make sure that when I leave, the team is in a fabulous place and certainly in a better place than when I took over and where I can come back as a fan and enjoy them hopefully in many more Champions League (campaigns).”

Chelsea came close to Champions League glory in 2021 before suffering an emphatic 4-0 defeat to Barcelona in the final.

The Blues are poised for a potential semi-final rematch with reigning champions Barca this term.

Yet, despite last week building a commanding first-leg lead in Amsterdam, Hayes insists it would be a “mistake” to overlook an Ajax team with little to lose.

“The fear of losing or the fear of not being in that semi-final is, for us, as big a drive as it is the desire to win it, in fact it’s more,” said Hayes.

“There is no-one in our dressing room that will take tomorrow’s game lightly or think for one minute just because we’re winning 3-0 that the game is over. That is a mistake.

“It all starts in your head, in your mind.

“And, when a team has nothing to lose, they play with freedom and in a different way to express themselves and they are often the most dangerous opponents so, for sure, we don’t take tomorrow lightly.”

Chelsea’s midweek appointment at Stamford Bridge comes four days before the Continental Tyres League Cup final against Arsenal at Molineux.

Preparations for the Gunners – the only English club to have won the Champions League following success in 2007 – remain on the back-burner.

“We only play one game at a time; I’m not thinking about Sunday,” said Hayes.

“I’m thinking about tomorrow. We know Ajax are going to come out and be aggressive. We’re expecting that.

“Only one team advances, so we’re prepared for the aggression from the opponent.

“They’re a good side and it’s important for us to keep all of our focus and attention on tomorrow.”