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Sonia Bompastor: Who is the coach linked with replacing Emma Hayes as Chelsea Women manager?

Sonia Bompastor has been linked with replacing Emma Hayes as Chelsea Women's new manager; Bompastor's current side, Lyon, and Chelsea both play in the Champions League semi-finals this weekend; follow our Barcelona vs Chelsea blog from 12.30pm

Lyon coach Sonia Bompastor
Image: Lyon coach Sonia Bompastor has been linked with becoming the new Chelsea manager

Lyon Women manager Sonia Bompastor has been linked with replacing Emma Hayes as Chelsea Women manager this summer. Both sides play in the Champions League semi-finals this weekend and could meet in the final. But who is Bompastor and will she fit with the Blues?

There are two criteria that Chelsea are looking for when appointing a manager to fill Hayes' impossibly large shoes.

Any new manager must maintain the success of the club. Chelsea have dominated domestic football in England for years, and have begun to assert themselves in Europe too.

A female coach has also been high on their wishlist. In Hayes, Chelsea have had a trailblazer. One of the game's chief champions who has been responsible for growth and change - a major player in improving the overall health of the sport.

The fact she has done so from a female perspective is equally important. Hayes entered the game at a time when very few female voices were taken seriously - a gap in experienced female head coaches still exists to this day.

And Bompastor fits both - she is another woman managing at a top European club, with a proven track record of success.

"Sonia is another big personality," writer and analyst Abdullah Abdullah told Sky Sports. He has written books on both Lyon and Chelsea's journeys in European competition.

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Sonia Bompastor won the Champions League with Lyon during her playing career
Image: Sonia Bompastor won the Champions League with Lyon during her playing career

"She came into a Lyon dressing room that needed guidance after they lost their way a little bit under the previous manager. She is a legend of the club and French football so she was instantly respected and lauded internally.

"That gave her a foundation with the French players. This can be replicated at Chelsea with someone who is a legend, but has also played the game-winning Champions League and league titles."

As Abdullah says, in her first full season in charge at Lyon, Bompastor led her side to the league and European double - beating Barcelona 3-1 in the Champions League final, with Lyon scoring three times inside the opening 33 minutes.

Sonia Bompastor also had a storied international career as a player with France
Image: The current Lyon coach also had a storied international career as a player with France

In the 2022/23 season, she retained the Division 1 Feminine title and won the Coupe de France. This campaign, her Lyon side are unbeaten and top of the league, on course for a third successive title.

They face domestic rivals Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League semi-finals too and, in a strange twist of fate, could face Chelsea in the final. The Blues take on Barcelona - who knocked them out in last year's semi-finals - this weekend.

And this before we even touch on Bompastor's own playing career, two spells at Lyon included. She won numerous league, cup and European titles with the club, also having success at fellow French side Montpellier.

Add to that over 150 international caps for France, Bompastor is a woman who has been proven herself time and again.

What can Chelsea expect from Bompastor?

Sonia Bompastor coached Lyon to Champions League success in 2022
Image: Sonia Bompastor coached Lyon to Champions League success in 2022

A new manager will mean changes across the board and while some may not be stark departures from Hayes' tenure, Bompastor will want to implement her own ideas at her new club.

"On the pitch, Sonia is pretty relaxed," Abdullah explained. "There isn't much in terms of theatrics or over-aggressive reactions. She has confidence in her teams.

"At Lyon, she knew she had the best team in France and possibly Europe, so she likes to leave them to get on with it.

"When it comes to player management, she approaches it professionally but knows how to get the best out of some players.

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French football journalist Julien Laurens believes Lyon head coach Sonia Bompastor would be the ideal choice to succeed Emma Hayes as Chelsea manager

"At one point where Selma Bacha and Delphine Cascarino were low on confidence, she [Bompastor] had more confidence in Cascarino than Cascarino herself, which led her to start playing better.

"So there is a human touch there. She's played professionally so she understands players well. Being at Lyon, she knew the dressing room and what it's like to play for such a historic club."

Then there's Bompastor's style of play. Hayes is known for her keen analytical and tactical eye, able to adapt her team in games and across seasons. It's how she has maintained success for so long.

Hayes' teams like to play in possession and more recently, have lined up as a 4-3-3. Defensively astute but with firepower going forward, Chelsea are a force to be reckoned with.

But Bompastor has her own style, and will look to implement that with the Blues.

"Sonia has a set way of playing. She likes to set up typically in a 4-3-3 with a holding midfielder and two No 8s," Abdullah added.

"For the most part, she likes flying full-backs and two wingers that typically look to come inside, interchange and link with the striker. She's had Ada Hegerberg for her time there so we know that she asks the team - especially the full-backs - to send crosses into Ada.

"I think we'll see a lot more of a systematic style of play come in against Emma's more principled approach.

"There are a few tactical changes I see with who plays and who doesn't. I think Niamh Charles, Catarina Macario, and Lauren James will be huge players for Bompastor, but I can also see another central midfielder coming in to suit her style."

Why Chelsea went for a female-led coaching team

The decision from Chelsea to appoint their next manager from one of women's footballs top teams - one certainly more successful in European competition than themselves - is indicative of just how serious the club are about the continued success of the team.

Sky Sports News reporter Anton Toloui said: "Chelsea's move for Bompastor will come as a surprise for many reasons despite her playing and coaching career.

"To approach one of the few teams seen as genuine contenders for the Champions League is a bold one, especially as they could play each other in this year's final.

"Bompastor is seen as an exceptionally pragmatic coach… Her strategic mind did win Lyon the Champions League in 2022, when her side out-fought and out-thought Barcelona.

"The approach for Bompastor also shows how few top-level female candidates there are in the game. The fact there are so few women Chelsea see as qualified for the job is a sign of how much progress needs to be made."

Sonia Bompastor's assistant, Camille Abily (centre), played for Lyon as recently as 2018
Image: Sonia Bompastor's assistant, Camille Abily (centre), played for Lyon as recently as 2018

She will likely be bringing along her secret weapon too in assistant manager Camille Abily, with another similarity to Hayes' current Chelsea set-up.

"Camille is a huge plus," Abdullah said. "Think of what Denise Reddy is to Emma, Camille is to Sonia. She's the arm around the shoulder to the players and another massive legend of Lyon which the players respect.

"We'll see her influence on games and it is another mirror of the Emma setup. In my opinion, Camille is a future manager in the making."

How familiar faces could help Bompsator settle in the WSL

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Catarina Macario - who joined Chelsea from Lyon in 2023 - had the debut of dreams when she scored against Leicester in the WSL

And Bompastor will have familiar faces to greet her on her first day at Cobham. Kadeisha Buchanan and Macario both joined Chelsea from Lyon and have played under the incoming coach already.

France international Eve Perisset too will know her fellow compatriot, while Ashley Lawrence will have faced Bompastor with PSG.

There will also be a shared language there too. Although Bompastor is thought to speak good English, players who can understand her in French is always a plus.

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Chelsea's Kadeisha Buchanan has previously played under Sonia Bompastor, and scored from a Catarina Macario corner against Aston Villa

It will also help her adapt to the WSL as well as life across the Channel, and Abdullah agrees that having some of her former players at the club will be useful.

"I don't know how well she'll do," he said. "Lyon was essentially her first big job and when you're given a big team in a league you're expected to dominate, it's a little easier - but winning the Champions League was impressive.

"I think she'll take a little while to adapt, so it's important that she gets players she knows along with the squad she has.

Buchanan, Macario, and Perisset are players she'll be familiar with, given she's coached the former two and won the Champions League with them. So implementing her ideas will be a little easier."

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