‘Unbelievable’ player and European winner – new Chelsea boss Sonia Bompastor

The former France midfielder replaces Emma Hayes, whose 12-year reign ended recently with a fifth consecutive WSL title.

Former Lyon boss Sonia Bompastor, pictured, has taken up the reins from Emma Hayes (Jose Breton/AP)
Former Lyon boss Sonia Bompastor, pictured, has taken up the reins from Emma Hayes (Jose Breton/AP) (Jose Breton/AP)

Former Lyon boss Sonia Bompastor has agreed a four-year deal to lead Women’s Super League champions Chelsea from next season.

The 43-year-old succeeds Emma Hayes, who over 12 years led the Blues to 14 major trophies including a fifth straight league title on the final day of the recently concluded campaign.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at Bompastor’s road to London and what we might expect from the ex-France midfielder.

Destined to play the Beautiful Game

Bompastor was born into a footballing family in Blois, France. With a referee dad and a brother who also played, her love for the sport came naturally.

She played for three youth teams and was called up to France’s under-18s for the first time in 1997, representing her country at the UEFA Women’s Under-18 Championship the following year.

The former midfielder made her international debut in a 2000 friendly against Scotland, eventually amassing 156 caps for the national team, and spending two years as captain of Les Bleues.

Briefly coached by Hayes herself

Bompastor’s first senior club minutes came at La-Roche-Sur-Yon, where she spent two years, before moving to Montpellier, with whom she won two league titles.

She then departed for the first of two spells at Lyon, where Bompastor went on to win back-to-back top-flight titles in 2007 and 2008 as a well as the Coupe de France in her second season.

In 2009, Bompastor was invited to be part of the newly created Women’s Professional Soccer championship side Washington Freedom, where the woman she would 15 years later succeed at Stamford Bridge was a member of the coaching staff.

Hayes, speaking ahead of last season’s Champions League quarter-final with Lyon, recalled that, as a player, Bompastor was “an unbelievable left-back with an unbelievable wand of a left boot”.

She added: “She was just a cultured, brilliant footballer that’s very quiet, cheeky, funny – the media might not always see that about her.”

Retirement and early coaching career

Bompastor rejoined Lyon in 2010 after a brief loan spell at Paris St Germain and in 2013 retired as captain on her 33rd birthday after 169 appearances for the club, with whom she won back-to-back Champions League trophies in 2011 and 2012.

She worked in Lyon’s academy for the next eight years and in 2021 was promoted to women’s first-team boss, becoming the first woman to lead what were then already 14-time French champions.

Key to the elusive trophy?

The Champions League trophy is the only one that eluded Hayes, whose Blues came up short of completing the checklist before her departure after falling 2-1 on aggregate to eventual champions Barcelona in their two-leg semi-final.

Bompastor knows how to win in Europe and – perhaps even more crucially – beat Barca, who dismantled Chelsea 4-0 in their sole Champions League final appearance in 2021.

In contrast, Lyon’s loss to the Spanish quadruple-winners this season was the first time they had not beaten Barcelona in five Champions League meetings, including their own trophy-winning turn two years ago.

In her own words

With five of Hayes’ Chelsea staff joining her as she takes up her new role as United States head coach, Bompastor will rely on a new team, with current right-hand woman Camille Abily and Thoe Rivrin joining her.

Last year, in an interview with UEFA, Bompastor revealed she places an emphasis on people and enjoys having discussions with her players and staff.

She added: “Trust yourself and surround yourself with the right people. It’s important to have people around you who share your values and who have the same vision as you. When you’re passionate about your job, you commit to it all the way.”