April 15, 2024

As it appeared like things might be starting to turn in Everton’s favor, the Blues now face yet another possible obstacle.

center-back Nathalie Bjorn, who just a few days prior had saved Brian Sorensen’s team from Aston Villa, has openly expressed her wish to leave Merseyside in search of “a new challenge”. This isn’t a completely shocking news because the Swede has long been considering moving away from Walton Hall Park.

However, Bjorn’s remarks run the risk of igniting additional anxiety among a team and a fan base who have already faced more than their fair share of hardship in recent times, following a tumultuous couple of months for the Blues.

“I feel like I need a new step and a new challenge to continue developing,” the defender told Swedish broadcaster STV when quizzed on her future. “Then, if it is in Spain or England, we will see. They are the two best leagues.”

In an industry where careers are short and lucrative moves can be few and far between, it’s perhaps not unwise for Bjorn – who is out of contract at Everton next summer – to keep her options open. However, the decision to flirt so plainly with the possibility of a move elsewhere is perhaps a little ill-timed from the Blues’ no.5.

The 26-year-old joined Everton from FC Rosengård in July 2021 and has since established herself as one of the most accomplished defenders in Europe. After Sorensen took charge of the Blues last summer, Bjorn was inducted into the Dane’s leadership group, captaining the side on a number of occasions and marshalling the back-line with great distinction. She featured in all but three of Everton’s games in all competitions last term and her consistency was central to the club securing a top six finish in the Women’s Super League (WSL).

Indeed, the fact Bjorn was voted Players’ Player of the Season for the 2022/23 campaign is proof enough of how highly-rated she is by her peers. And it is not only on the domestic stage that the defender has excelled this year.

She started six of Sweden’s seven games at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, helping Peter Gerhardsson’s side topple co-hosts Australia to win the third-place play-off. Having impressed for both club and country, it’s little wonder Bjorn drew admiring glances from a host of top European clubs over the summer, with Real Madrid emerging as the most likely candidate to capture her signature.

According to Swedish outlet Fotbollskanalen, Las Blancas saw a number of bids for the centre-back rebuffed by Everton, who had already lost talented Danish defender Rikke Sevecke in the summer transfer window. That was before Manchester United’s eleventh-hour swoop for England international Gabby George compounded Everton’s defensive woes, further necessitating Bjorn’s continued presence at Walton Hall Park.

But even though the Swede’s services were retained on Merseyside, this season has not been without its challenges for the Blues, who have managed just two wins from their first 10 games in all competitions. Injuries have offered some mitigation for that poor run of form, with Bjorn plus fellow defenders Sara Holmgaard and Elise Stenevik all having missed games through injury this term.

Nathalie Bjorn joined Everton back in 2021

Away from the pitch, the news experienced winger Nicoline Sorensen is set to retire from football at the end of the calendar year has exacerbated the need for Sorensen and co. to dip into the January transfer market, while the three-match suspension handed to striker Martina Piemonte following an incident in Everton’s 2-2 draw with Bristol City constituted another unwelcome obstacle for the Blues to navigate past.

All of this, of course, has unfurled against the backdrop of Everton’s wider troubles, with the club having been issued with the biggest sporting sanction in Premier League history after being judged to have breached the competition’s financial rules. Although the 10-point deduction imposed on Sean Dyche’s side doesn’t directly impact the women’s team, it would be naïve to assume the maelstrom surrounding the club hasn’t had at least a subliminal effect on Sorensen and his players.

With that in mind, last weekend’s 2-1 victory over Aston Villa felt like a potential turning point in Everton’s campaign. Carla Ward’s side have struggled for form themselves this season and Bjorn’s 74th-minute penalty, after Heather Payne was felled inside the area, saw the Blues leapfrog their hosts to move up to eighth in the WSL table.

“We felt like we needed to fight, to step up and to be better than we have been,” Bjorn told evertontv after the game. “We know we can do much more in this league and I hope these three points can help us turn things around.”

It sounded like something of a rallying cry from the Swede – a rousing statement that hinted there would be a renewed collective push to help Everton climb the table post-international break. But, less than a week later, Bjorn’s comments indicate she is unlikely to be part of the club’s long-term future.

Of course, whether her “new challenge” takes her to the Spanish capital remains to be seen. When asked about Real Madrid’s rumoured interest, she told SVT: “I can’t say anything.”

Certainly, the centre-back hasn’t closed the door on a switch to the Spanish side, whether than be in January or when her contract expires next June. While she remains at Everton, though, the Blues will hope Bjorn remains committed to the cause as they look to arrest their patchy form and continue to climb the WSL table.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *