Everton confirmed the re-signing of their former midfielder Izzy Christiansen from Lyon Féminin at the end of December, in what should prove to be a fantastic move for both the club and player.
Christiansen left Everton for Birmingham in 2009, before joining Manchester City in 2014. The England midfielder enjoyed the most fruitful period of her career during a glittering four years at the Academy Stadium.
The 28-year-old hit the winning goal in the 2014 Continental Cup final to help City claim their first ever piece of silverware. In 2016, Christiansen was an integral part of the City side that won the WSL for the first time in the club’s history, and she went on to scoop the PFA Player of the Year.
The following season, Christiansen called time on her stay in Manchester to sign for giants of the women’s game Lyon.
Despite joining a squad consisting almost exclusively of the world’s best players, including Ada Hederberg, Shanice van de Sanden, Lucy Bronze and Eugenie Le Sommer, Christiansen was a regular fixture in the Lyon starting XI, and as a result, a regular in Phil Neville’s England squad.
But then in March, disaster struck. Just 65 days before Neville was due to announce his 2019 World Cup squad, Christiansen was forced off with an injury during England’s final game of the SheBelieves Cup. She was informed she had broken her leg and damaged her ankle ligaments.
Despite an intense rehab tailored towards getting her fit for the World Cup, Christiansen was not selected. She then watched from the stands as her club lifted the Champions League, sobbing outside the ground with England teammate Toni Duggan, who had lined up for Lyon’s beaten opponents Barcelona. The pair consoled one another – Christiansen on agonisingly missing out on the World Cup, Duggan for the Champions League final defeat.
Christiansen has since been restricted to cameos off the bench for Lyon this season, leaving Neville unable to recall her to his England side. With the 2020 Olympics on the horizon, followed by a home Euros in 2021, it was vital Christiansen made a move now in order to force her way back into contention and revive her international career.
The midfielder could not have picked a more perfect club to join.
The Toffees are enjoying their best season in years, with only goal difference separating themselves and fourth place Manchester United. However, Everton have a slightly smaller squad than the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City, meaning Christiansen should see more game time.
Christiansen is a supremely technically gifted and intelligent footballer with an eye for goal. The prospect of her linking up with Everton’s skilful winger Chloe Kelly is hugely exciting.
The signing is also an excellent move by Everton, and a real show of ambition from the club who had fallen off the pace at the top of the women’s game over the last decade Although enjoying a resurgence under Willie Kirk, the former Manchester United assistant manager has worked wonders with limited resources.
Everton had been the second best side in the country during the late 2000s, finishing runners up to Arsenal five years on the trot, as they boasted a squad brimming with international talent.
However, as the women’s game grew, Everton stood still. The likes of Jill Scott, Fara Williams, Lucy Bronze and Natasha Dowie all departed for clubs throwing more money and resources behind the women’s game. The club were even relegated from the WSL in 2014.
Christiansen has a history of signing for clubs with ambition and with intentions to treat the women’s game with the professionalism it deserves. She left Birmingham after five years for Manchester City, despite the side being in their infancy. However, City were a club taking the game to new levels with their professionalism, and it proved to be a fantastic move.
Likewise, Lyon are the most successful team in Europe because of the incredible women’s set up they have created. Despite her lack of minutes this season, it seems unlikely Christiansen would leave the European giants for Everton if the Toffees were not demonstrating big aspirations.
Signing Christiansen is a real statement of intent from Everton. She is a player of real quality, with a proven record in the WSL. Willie Kirk has already transformed Everton on a shoe string budget. The club can go far if they are truly showing the ambition that the signing of Christiansen suggests they are.